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Homekeeping · Organization · 6 Tips For Making To-Do Lists That Are Actually Useful

6 Tips For Making To-Do Lists That Are Actually Useful

If your to-do lists sometimes feel like more of a hindrance than a help, these tips are for you!

I freely admit to being a bit of a “free spirit” in my approach to getting things done. I don’t like adhering to a strict schedule (which is why I can’t see myself ever going back to a 9-to-5), and I also don’t like feeling like I can’t pursue a sudden idea or inspiration when it strikes!

However, I have come quite a ways in that department over the years, thanks mainly to the OGT Team dragging me (metaphorically speaking) into a world of planning, calendars, and goal-setting. To my surprise, it’s actually pretty enjoyable to have a plan you can count on rather than doing everything in a rush at the 11th hour. (Who knew?) 😉

Now that I’ve experienced the benefits of planning and organizing in my work life, I’m trying to be more open minded about incorporating it into my home life too. So in order to have more time to do the things that make me happy, I’ve been working on improving my to-do lists.

Here are 6 of the most useful tips for to-do lists that I’ve found so far. I hope they prove as beneficial for your productivity as they have been for mine!

6 Tips For Making Better To-Do Lists

1. Pick The Right Medium

Some people find it easiest to keep to-do lists and tasks on their phone simply because it’s always close at hand. Others prefer to keep it old school by jotting down their lists on paper. But there’s no “right” way to do it, other than the right way for you! 🙂


There are a lot of great apps for keeping track of things, and they often include built-in reminders, sorting options that allow you to sort by priority or due date, the ability to share lists, and cloud storage to keep everything backed up safely.

One of my favorite to-do list apps is Todoist. There’s a free version or you can upgrade to unlock additional features for $3/month. It syncs across platforms, includes productivity reports, and it looks great to boot! 

I also like Reminders on iPhone. It’s a simple way to keeps track of tasks, plus you can tell it when to remind you about each task based on time, date, or even location. simple and reliable.


While I do use my phone quite a bit to jot down things I think of on the fly, nothing will ever replace writing out a list the old fashioned way! Writing my tasks out by hand helps me remember the items better, and it just tends to make me feel more organized. (Plus, it’s so satisfying to cross off items as I—for some reason virtual checkmarks just don’t cut it!) 

A fresh legal pad or a mini notebook is always a great option, or check out my printable planners here and look for the daily planner, which has a to-do list built right in!

2. Write Your List The Night Before

Having a to-do list ready to go when you wake up will help you start your day with clarity. Start by tackling the first item on the list, which you’ve likely already prioritized as the most important task.

That way, you won’t need to groggily decide where to start, and you can just get right to it! This is similar to the “Ivy Lee Method,” a 100-year old hack that still works like a charm!

3. Limit Your Lists

Limit your daily to-do list (the one you write the night before) to just 3 or 4 items—maybe 5 if they’re all quick and easy. You’re more likely to finish everything on a shorter list, which means you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment will help keep you going!

Having a huge list, on the other hand, means doing a lot of rescheduling, postponing, prioritizing, and considering. Keep your list short instead and you’ll stay more productive!

4. Make Multiple Lists

You might be saying to yourself, “But Jillee, I always have more than 4 things I need to do!” I do too, which is why it’s smart to keep a second list (AKA a “dump list” or “master list”) too.

While your daily list is short and has a clear deadline (the end of the day), a master list is where you can jot down anything as soon as it comes to mind. You can reference your master list when you’re making your daily to-do list for the following day.

In addition to a daily list and a master list, you might also consider keeping separate “project-based” lists, like a list for an upcoming trip or a work project. 

5. Include Important Details 

For every task on your to-do list, try to include all the information you’ll need to be able to complete that task. For example, if you need to call the gas company to ask about a bill, you might jot their customer service number and your customer account number on the list too.

That way, when you’re ready to start a new task, you can just get right to it!

6. Delegate Or Automate

After making lists for a few days, look over your lists and ask yourself if you could have delegated or automated any of those tasks. If you spent time paying bills manually, consider setting aside some time to sign up for automatic bill pay.

If you had to do spend time cleaning out the gutters, ask your son to help out next time. Sometimes it doesn’t occur to delegate or automate a task in the moment, so it pays to spend some time reflecting after the fact!

Do you have any tips or tricks for making to-do lists?

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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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