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Making a Successful To-Do List

A to-do list is just a list of things you have to-do. That means basically anything and everything can be on your to-do list—but just because you’ve written your to-dos down doesn’t mean your to-do list is actually useful. Effectively tracking when your work is due can help you prioritize and get great work done. But too often, that list of work to-dos is disorganized and disconnected from the actual work you’re doing—which leads to less clarity and more work about work.

The good news is, writing a to-do list doesn’t have to be an exercise in futility. Take control of your to-dos with these 15 secrets for making a to-do list that actually works. First thing’s first: Say goodbye to the written to-do list.

If you haven’t already, the first step for creating a to-do list that actually works is to build it in a to-do list app. Written to-do lists provide the wonderfully satisfying feeling of crossing something off, but they’re also the worst way to keep track of your to-dos. The truth of the matter is, a written to-do list is disorganized, prone to mistakes, easy to lose, and ineffective.

Instead, get started with a to-do list app. Unlike a written to-do list, the benefits of a to-do list app include:

Sorting and prioritizing work. If you want to change the order of your written to-do list, you have to rewrite the whole thing. But with a to-do list app, you can easily drag and drop items. Not only that—most to-do list apps offer a way to track priority with custom tags. Impossible to lose. Unlike a handwritten to-do list, you can’t “lose” an online to-do list. You’ll always have access to the list, so you can jot down to-dos wherever you are.

Add additional context to your to-dos. Most to-do list apps offer a way for you to add additional information in the description. In a written to-do list, all you have are a couple of words to describe what you need to work on. But with a to-do list app each to-do has an expandable description, where you can add any relevant task details, working docs, or important information.

Create separate lists in the same place. Before you choose a to-do list app, make sure you can create more than one “list” in the app. You might want to create a to-do list for personal work, another for your team’s work, and a third for your professional development, for example. A to-do list app with multiple list options allows you to store all of these to-dos in one place.

Set due dates, reminders, and notifications. Your to-dos don’t mean much if they’re not done in time. With a to-do list app, you can track when work is due, and set up reminders or notifications to make sure you get your to-dos done in time.

Collaboration. When your individual to-do list is organized and your priorities are clear, you can better contribute to team projects and initiatives. In other words, the more organized you are, the easier it’ll be to collaborate with your team.

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