How to write a life-changing to-do list

Love to work productive and powerfully towards your dreams? Learn how to write a life-changing to-do list in just six steps. 

If you’re reading this thinking, ‘Yeah, right! As if a to-do list can be life-changing!’ then think again! Millions of people struggle to create a schedule to manage their time successfully and to-do lists are simple yet extremely powerful tools in helping you to organise tasks and commitments in both your professional and personal life.

So, yes, they can be life-changing but – and it’s a big but – they need to be created correctly in order to get maximum benefit from them.

If your to-do list contains ‘tasks’ like ‘write a best-seller’ for example, or ‘get a promotion,’ you’re on a hiding to nothing. Your to-list needs to be broken down into achievable tasks, not life goals and dreams. Similarly, if it’s too complicated, you’ll end up chucking it in the bin.

Six steps to writing a life-changing to-do list

What you need to do is to create a series of to-do lists that focus on the long-term, medium-term and short-term. So you have your daily to-do list which contains the lists of chores you need to get done, from catching up with emails to shopping for groceries, as well as lists that detail your long-term goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Here are six steps to writing a life-changing to-do list.

1) Establish your long-term goals

Long-term goals, also called life goals, give a clear destination and help you plan your life accordingly. These goals can be related to education, career, or personal life, and vary from person to person. For example, your long-term goal may be to become an entrepreneur and start a business somewhere down the line. That’s a good goal and can be easily placed on a to-do list. All you need to do is:

  • Identify the goal.
  • Write a brief description of what you want to achieve.
  • Set a timeline for that goal, which is usually 5-10 years. Make sure the timeline is realistic.

These long-term goals will go a long way in keeping you focused and motivated. Every time you are uncertain about any of the short-term goals, take a look at the long-term ones on the list and regain focus.

2) Create a yearly list of goals

Once you have the long-term goals in place, it’s time to shine the spotlight on yearly goals. Make sure these are connected in some way to the former as it will help you achieve them.

For example, if you intend to start a business in five years’ time, you will need to be prepared for it. You may want to start saving some money, build business connections in that field, and take other solid steps to achieve this goal.

Here are some tips on how to create good yearly goals:

  • Be very specific when creating the list and include details about your goal so it stays fresh in your memory.
  • Make sure these annual goals don’t compromise the long-term ones and add to your burden.
  • Don’t add new yearly goals to the list unless you have accomplished previous ones. Adding to the existing list will only increase the amount of work on your plate, which can result in demotivation. It’s important to keep your list of goals manageable.

3) Write a monthly to-do list

Once the yearly list is ready, it’s time to focus on the monthly to-do list; it should be connected to the annual one and help you achieve those goals.

When creating monthly lists, make sure there is some breathing room and don’t schedule things back to back. The last thing you want is to be overwhelmed by work so make sure to keep the weekends free and set realistic, achievable goals for the entire month.

4) Write a weekly to-do list

Weekly to-do lists are essential for achieving monthly goals, and these have the most direct impact on your goals. Here are some important tips to consider:

  • Schedule the most important tasks early in the week and get them out of the way as that takes some stress off your mind.
  • Consider how much you can get done in a day while planning your week as that will have an impact on the weekly schedule.
  • Make sure the list complements your monthly goals.

Once the weekly list is ready, make a daily list of everything that needs to be achieved during that time. This list will help improve productivity and ensure you achieve all your goals without becoming overwhelmed. Schedule the intensive and complex tasks for times of the day when you are most productive, and keep distractions at bay.

5) Keep it simple

It’s very important to keep the to-do list concise and crisp; complicated lists with too many items and details are intimidating and can make you feel there is too much work to complete. The purpose of the list is to make your day better organised.

Here are a few tips on how to keep your to-do list simple:

  • Divide your time according to your requirements in order to make it seem like you have less to do. For example, if you feel the day is too crowded and overwhelming, divide it into two or three-hour sections and the tasks accordingly.
  • Focus on the most significant tasks and don’t try to micromanage everything. Some people believe that their to-do list should include very small chore or task. That can make your list appear crowded and overwhelming. Instead of planning for small things, focus on the tasks that really matter and have a greater impact on your schedule. That will help ensure your list isn’t lengthy or endless.
  • Be realistic with the to-do list and don’t set goals that aren’t achievable; that will only make you feel burdened and unmotivated. Instead, just stick with simpler, achievable goals; that will add to your enthusiasm and motivation levels.

6) Use tools to help

There are many technology platforms and tools available today that can help you maintain a good to-do list and keep track of your goals, such as Workflowy, to name but one. Of course, you may prefer to write your to-do lists on good old-fashioned paper and stick them to your fridge, but here are some more options to consider:

  • Create the list in spreadsheet software like Excel or Google Sheets and store it in the Cloud.
  • Keep a short daily to-do list on your phone to ensure you have easy access to it.
  • Use note taking or to-do list apps to keep track of your goals and schedules.

Use to-do lists to work more productively

If you follow these tips and create straightforward to-do lists, it will help keep your life organised and in control; you will also notice there is a significant improvement in your productivity levels. Following this consistently helps improves efficiency, and you will find that you also have some leisure time to spend with family and friends.

Love lists? Here are some more to try

We love lists! Here are some more of our favourites:

Ashley Andrews is an Inbound Marketing Strategist at Activia Training, a UK-based training provider specialising in improving delegates’ workplace performance in business skills, management development and IT applications.

Ashley is passionate about sales and management issues, and regularly blogs about these – and many other topics – on the Activia blog.