10 Tips for Managing Your To-Do List

Is your to-do list a mile long? A few months ago, my weekend to-do list went on for several pages. Yes, I had all that planned for a mere three-day weekend. Just how much did I accomplish from that list? Not much. I felt so overwhelmed that I didn’t know where to start. It’s incredibly frustrating and disheartening to see a long list of things that need to be done yet feel immobilized by the impossibility of it all. Can you relate? If so, here are 10 valuable tips for managing your to-do list that have made my tasks so much more manageable. 

manage your to-do list Pinterest image with coffee and to-do list

Many of us (especially moms, whose work is never done, anyway) try to tackle more than we can handle. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by stretching our time too thin. It leaves us feeling stressed out, and in my case, I’m snappy when I’m stressed out. That’s not the kind of wife or mom I want to be.

Although there will always be more to do than you or I can accomplish in a single day, putting limits on your list can actually help you be more productive. Here are 10 tips for taking control of your to-do list.

1. Write it out by hand.

Did you know that writing boosts learning and helps you achieve your goals? You can read more in detail about it here, but in short, writing stimulates parts of your brain that typing doesn’t. You’ll have better memory recall and will think more about your goals because your brain is more engaged in the process.

Get our FREE PRINTABLE DAILY TO-DO LIST to keep track of your to-dos easily!

2. Keep it short.

I actually read this tip in Ruth Soukup’s book, How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul (affiliate link). She recommends writing your daily to-do list on a sticky note. This method helps you keep your list short and helps you be honest with yourself about how much you can really accomplish in a single day. I highly recommend you try this trick yourself. Don’t cheat by writing your tasks super small, though!

hand holding a pink sticky-note to-do list - the sticky note method makes managing your to-do list easier

3. Schedule a brain dump once a week.

How do our to-do lists get so long in the first place? We dump everything we can remember onto them. This technique has some merit, but it shouldn’t be put on your daily task list. Instead, schedule a brain dump once a week to make a note of anything that’s rattling around in your head or scribbled on a piece of paper. Review this list weekly to help you create your short daily to-do lists.

4. Plan ahead.

At the end of the day or first thing in the morning, take a few minutes to handwrite your to-do list. Planning ahead prevents that, “Where do I start?” feeling first thing in the morning.

5. Spend only five minutes on your list.

Keeping that long brain-dump list means that you don’t have to wrack your brain to remember your commitments. Set the timer for five minutes and plan your day. At the end of five minutes—or at the end of your sticky note—stop writing. That’s enough for today. Anything else will have to wait. If you’re spending more than five minutes a day on your to-do list, you’re likely making too long of a list.

woman's hand holding and setting a 5-minute tmer

6. Prioritize the list.

Even when you shorten your to-do list, you may not get everything done. That’s why you need to order your tasks from most important to least important. By tackling the most important items first, you minimize the fires you have to put out later.

7. Estimate the time it will take for each task.

While you’re writing and prioritizing, make a quick note about how long you think it will take to complete each task. Over time you’ll get the hang of allotting enough time for your regular tasks, and you’ll know whether you need to scale back or if you can add an extra item or two each day. A word of warning: don’t give yourself too much time. Work tends to expand to fill the time it is allotted.

8. Keep daily routines off your to-do list.

A great way to unclutter your to-do list is to leave off day-to-day items like washing the dishes or making the beds. You should have these things written down somewhere, just not on your to-do list. Create reusable lists instead by using an app, keeping them in a word document, or using dry-erase markers with laminated lists.

woman wiping down a table

9. Cross off completed items.

This step is self-explanatory, but it’s the best reason for writing out your list rather than typing it. There’s nothing more satisfying than crossing off a completed item. It provides a tangible sense of accomplishment. Checking a box on an app just doesn’t have the same thrill for me.

10. Review your list at the end of the day.

Take a moment to review your list at the end of the day. Move anything that still needs to be done on your list for the next day if the items are essential. If they’re not, consider whether they really need to be on your list at all.

We all have that feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of tasks on our plate. It’s time to take control and make your life easier with these 10 tips for better managing your to-do list! You’ll never be stuck wondering what you should do again. These are some tried and true methods for making sure you can get everything done in a timely manner, without forgetting anything important along the way.

Still not motivated? Read our post on How to Get Things Done Even When You Don’t Feel Like It. You may also enjoy 5 Time Management Tips for Stay at Home Moms.

For more tips on managing and scheduling your time, check out How to Create the Perfect Work at Home Schedule from The Classy Chapter.

pinterest image - woman's hands making a to-do list

to do list on light pink background

17 thoughts on “10 Tips for Managing Your To-Do List”

  1. Love, love, love these tips! I’m always looking for a way to tame the to-do list. Hopping over from Labert’s Lately and linking up my post on 10 ways to stress less in your daily routine.. I think you’d like it 🙂

    Erin @ by Erin Creative Co.

  2. These tips are great! I thought I was alone in the old skool writing my lists down by hand thing. Glad to see that my method does have merit. I like the brain dump idea too. Right now I transfer everything I don’t get done to the next day and it tends to have a snowball effect.

  3. I love these tips! I’m so guilty of making super long to-do lists. I’m addicted to post-it notes, though, and I like to break up the long list by re-writing my first priorities onto a post-it. Then when I’m done with those tasks, I’ll make another small list on a post-it from the long list. Seems kind of repetitive but it works for me! Thanks for sharing, found you on Create it Thursday 🙂

  4. Thanks for the great list! I do tend to put mundane stuff like laundry, vacuuming and cleaning on my to-do list because it makes me feel good to be able to cross some things off. 🙂

  5. Love the “brain dump” idea. I’m guilty of cluttering my list with ev-er-y-thing. I also need to write down the estimated time. That would definitely keep my list from becoming overwhelming.

  6. Love the post it note tip – I just started doing something similar with sticky notes on my desktop and it actually really works. Pinned

  7. Great posts with actionable items. Definately keep your to do list with absolutely needs to get done and I agree in bite size chunks. The timer is a great idea.

  8. Pingback: Welcome To Think Tank Thursday 3/12 | Saving 4 Six
  9. I’m always looking for ways to manage my day better. Love the brain dump concept because it will just take all that stuff on my mind and put it in one place.

  10. Thanks for sharing! I plan to use this post as one of my featured ones for next week link up party!

  11. There are a bunch of these that I’m going to try! Sometimes my to do list gets done but a lot of times it doesn’t even get written! Thanks for the tips!

  12. Great post. Lately I have been feeling so stressed and overwhelmed so following these to do list guidelines will undoubtedly help. Tweeting!

  13. LOVE this! I always forget to leave my “normals” off of my to do list. In fact, I just recently started a sheet that has my “minimum per day to do’s” on a laminate sheet, and then use my actual planner for just the big things.


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