How to Create a Dynamic To-Do List

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Our jobs carry a lot of responsibility and sometimes it can feel like our work is never done. Here are some strategic ways to use a to-do list that will allow you to get it all out of your head at the end of the day, stop thinking about work, and feel energized for tomorrow.


1. Write a quick list of tomorrow’s Top 6 Priorities

Before leaving work for the day, make a list of the most important tasks for tomorrow. Mark Forster, productivity expert, suggests asking yourself “What do I actually think I will do?” and using that as a guide for writing the list. This helps you to make real progress by creating a plan that you can realistically complete.


2. Prioritize your list

Number your list in order of urgency or importance. Identify and highlight your “Golden Task”, which is the item you are going to do BEFORE you check email or messages, ensuring that one top priority is completed before you get distracted or derailed.


3. Ask yourself: Did I avoid doing something today?

Include a task that will move you in the direction of completing something that you’ve been procrastinating about. We procrastinate because we are uncomfortable, but we get more and more uncomfortable as we continue to procrastinate. To overcome this, spend a few minutes breaking the task down into the smallest completable parts, and then do the first thing on the list. Maybe all it will take is calling a co-worker to hash out ideas or holding yourself accountable to someone who you don’t want to let down.


4. Review today’s list

Cal Newport (in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World) describes the importance of ending every workday the same way: “This ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either 1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or 2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited at the right time.” Put each task in your Priorities list for tomorrow, or in your Future list, and nothing will slip through the cracks.


5. Try a “brain dump” when you’re feeling overwhelmed

One last tip is to write or type out everything that is bouncing around in your brain. You can use this list to create your Top 6 for tomorrow, and everything else will go on your Future List. This will reduce your anxiety and help you leave work behind for the day.


We hope these tips will help you stay focused in your workday and more peaceful in your personal life!


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