Monday Motivation: The Power of the To-Do List

My to-do list is my best friend, but it can also be my worst enemy.


There is nothing better than crossing a bunch of things off a list – it really feels like you’ve accomplished something.  (And in my house, I need that tiny little affirming checkmark, cause most of the time the things I do aren’t noticeable and don’t last.)

There is also nothing worse than a to-do list that just keeps getting longer and longer, when I feel like I’m in a sinking ship, bailing water with a teaspoon.  Can you relate?

Here are a few tips I’ve gathered for mastering the to-do list:

1. Baby Steps

Break up big tasks into small, manageable steps.  It’s better to have five defined items on your list that you can cross off quickly than to have one big one that you have sitting there for weeks.

2. Simplify

I first heard the concept of the “Stubby” to-do list from Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau’s book ADD-friendly ways to organize your life.  The idea is that you choose no more than 5 goals to accomplish (ideally around 3) for the day so you don’t get overwhelmed.

3. Keep it Close

Your to-do list won’t do you any good if you don’t check it.  Keep it somewhere handy and make it part of your routine – first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and at intervals through the day.  Make it a habit to check your list any time you have time to get something done, even if it’s as little as 15 minutes.  I like to use the reminders app on my iPhone, because I have it on me all the time and I can use Siri to add to my list.

4. Make it Matter

If you don’t get an intrinsic reward from checking off a box – like strange little me – make sure you reward yourself in some other small way.  You might want to weight the rewards according to the difficulty or desirability of the task.  Whatever it is that you choose, make sure you are motivated to check off those tasks.


I hope these tips have helped you tap into the power of using a to-do list.  Let me know how this helps you, or share your own tips, too! 🙂

9 thoughts on “Monday Motivation: The Power of the To-Do List”

  1. I’m learning to use to do lists. My big failing spot is “keep it close”. One program had me set up a big binder of stuff. It lurks on a shelf above my computer and I forget to check it. Derp. 😀

  2. Love it. A very long to do list will just overwhelm you. I keep mine short and I use my CRM system to also keep me on track.

    Today I have been out, so no to-do and then when I came home I needed to do some family stuff (not anticipated) so no to do – but I did make 3 calls – one of which to re-arrange!!!

    Tomorrow I will start with a focused list.

    1. Great! And don’t stress about those days where you don’t get your to do list done. You just have to realize you made a new list and your old one got bumped. 🙂

  3. I used to do check lists all the time, then I got out of the habit. My days were spent doing nothing in particular and so I began using them again. Some days I meet all of my goals, some days I don’t. I’ve learned not to beat myself up about it. This is a great reminder article for me. Thank you!

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