How to do to-do lists the right way

to do lists

We are all getting increasingly busy, everyone has multiple side hustles and some week’s your to do list is never ending (or most weeks in my case) and let’s be honest, some weeks you’re so busy you forget to look after yourself. Whether that’s cooking good food, exercising or just relaxing for a bit, you just don’t have the time. Having a great to-do list system which works for YOU can help make sure you get the job done and have time for yourself, that might even mean you have to include your hobbies in your to-do list. 

For a while now I have had a lot of very different projects and a variety of deadlines going on at the same time. I have suffered burnout a few times and one of the methods that has helped me avoid burnout again is using to-do lists effectively in a way that works for me. I’m sure there are times you have gone to write your to-do list for the day (or the week), and after you’re finished you look at it and feel so overwhelmed, that you’re already panicking and feel exhausted… now that’s really not a good way to start. 

In this article I will break down simple & effective ways you can create to-do lists using apps, as well as the classic pen & paper method. I want to show you just how many options are out there and that you will need to experiment with a few to see which works best for you, there is no one size fits all with anything in life, especially when it comes to to-do lists. 

Classic Pen & Paper To-Do lists

You can buy many pre-laid out to do lists from most stationary stores today, however they may not tick all of your boxes. If you choose to use a pen and paper to-do list I suggest an A5 or small notebook, with ruled pages and a pen. Let’s go through the steps to build your to-do list.

  1. Start with the date. This will help you make sure you’re looking at the right to-do list, plus writing the date may prompt you to remember something you need to do today that you may have forgotten.
  2. Write “To-do List”. This is self-explanatory… 
  3. Draw 3 tick boxes down the left-hand side. Having a box to check off after each task you do can help reduce feelings of stress, as you feel accomplished and you know you’re making progress.
  4. Write the 3 major tasks you need to do today on one line next to each tick-box. You want to make sure your to-do isn’t too long, keep it concise so you can understand it at a glance.
  5. If you have secondary to-dos, put them on another page, include tick boxes and stick to the same guidelines. Make sure you don’t have more than 10 in your secondary to-do list.

Apps & Online Tools for your To-Do List

There are so many different apps and tools out there nowadays to help you create and manage your to-do lists, it can be overwhelming to choose one and find one that genuinely works and that’s free. Here I have rounded up my favourite 3 apps, they all meet the following criteria:

  • User-friendly and simple layout.
  • Available to download on all your devices; iOS and android, phones and laptops. 
  • You can Sync these apps to have the same to-do lists on all your devices. 


This is a personal favourite of mine and the one I personally use. Here you can create different boards for different projects in your life (e.g. you can have one for work, your house duties…). Within the boards you can create different lists, and for each task added you can create a to-do list within it. It also has due dates and reminder options. You can change the background to make you feel more creative or simply have more fun with it. 

A view of the Trello App on iPhone is a great app with slightly less options than trello but a more minimalistic and better layout, however it doesn’t offer the option to change the background like Trello. A perk of is that you can use Siri or Alexa to add to-do lists. What I love about is that it has an inbuilt grocery list option which even separates your shopping into food groups!
A view of the App on iPhone

Google Tasks

This is the most basic to-do list app you can find, and it’s entirely free. It’s a list and you can create as many as you want with checklists, and that’s about it.

Google tasks app
A view of the Google Task App on iPhone

Good luck, I hope this helps you to make the most from your lists and be super productive!

About the author

Luana De Giorgio

Luana is studying at the University of Exeter Medical School and alongside her degree works in Digital Marketing & Design. She writes about all things digital marketing, design, organisation and breaks down cool sciency stuff to help you stay healthy and productive.

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