A practical to-do list sets you off in the right direction each day and helps you focus on the tasks that are most important to you. With the right strategies, a to-do list can help you achieve larger goals, too. Here’s what you need to know to make your to-do list work for you.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT APP (OR PAPER)
The first step in making a better to-do list is deciding where to keep it. You could certainly create one in a to-do list app, but there’s nothing wrong with paper, if it works for you! A simple spreadsheet or word processing document is fine, too.
Apps for keeping to-do lists have several advantages over paper, however, and it’s good to at least know what they are:
• Apps have built-in reminders.
• It’s easier to edit a digital list than one written in ink.
• You can’t lose a digital list that’s saved to the cloud.
• Apps let you quickly change the view of your tasks to sort them by priority, by due date, or alphabetically.
• Digital to-do lists can be collaborative, meaning you can assign tasks to other people and get notified when they complete them.
• Some to-do list apps include features that might motivate you, such as a beautiful design or a gamification element.
There are many to-do list apps to choose from. You could lose an entire day exploring all the options. I’ve tested dozens of them, and the ones I recommend most are Todoist, Asana, and Things.
A few other options are great in certain circumstances: Google Tasks for its Google Workspace integration, Microsoft To Do if you use Office or Windows 10, Habitica if you like gamification, OmniFocus for those who add a lot of detail to their tasks, and Trello for the visually-driven person.
Recommendations are helpful, but ultimately, choose an app or notebook that speaks to you. You will likely look at your to-do lists quite often, after all.
2. MAKE MORE THAN ONE LIST
All great to-do apps let you make multiple lists. Start out with a few that are easy and obvious: work, personal, and household. Having more than one list helps you focus. When you’re at work, you don’t want to be distracted by your personal list. When you’re at home, you don’t want to be burdened thinking about your work responsibilities.
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