Great intentions but your To Do list never gets done? Try this.

Want to read this later? Pin it here.

To Do lists are often associated with people who are incredibly organised, high achievers like Rory Gilmore in Gilmore Girls, or to reference someone real, Hillary Clinton, impending U.S. President (please, please vote her in!).

Then there are those of us who, despite our penchant for making To Do lists, are still as busy, overwhelmed and disorganised as we were the day before. Despite our best intentions we semi-achieve in a state of constant chaos, lying to ourselves by pledging that we’ll start being more organised next week, or after the next deadline is met.

Only to find ourselves in a constant state of anxiety, feeling as though we are chasing our tails each and every day.

Surely there’s a better way to do all of this, and by “this” I mean life. And there is.

When it comes to getting on top of things and staying on top of things it’s not just about creating a To Do list, it’s about making that To Do list effective.

Writing it all down just isn’t enough.

The Well: Gretchen Rubin’s One Minute Rule. Article continues after this video.

You also have to learn to remove all emotion from it. Your To Do list isn’t a measure of your self-worth so stop with all the shame. Inspirational speaker Vanessa Loder told Forbes magazine said you also have to find a way to outsource as much as possible. There’s no point in making a To Do list if it’s completely unachievable to begin with.


Your To Do list doesn’t have magical powers. It doesn’t have any power beyond your ability to write a good one and then use it to become more efficient.

Loder says the key to a truly effective To Do list requires the following:

1. Keep it simple

Your To Do list should only have three things on it. Loder says even knows some people who only allow one item on it. As a mother and writer, I’m not sure this is possible, unless I categorised my To Do lists and did one for work, one for the things I have to do for the kids and a personal one.

2. Write it the night before

This is something that I do. The last thing I do before going to sleep at night is to open up the Notes app on my phone and write down those things I absolutely must do the following day. It’s the only way I can relax.

You can do it on a piece of paper or using technology, it doesn't matter. Image: The Inter, Warner Bros. Pictures

3. Do the first thing first

The items on your To Do list should be in order of importance and the first item on your list should be done first thing in the morning when you are fresh. No stalling.

4. Do a mind dump

If you are having trouble sticking to three items on your list or your mind keeps wandering write down every single thing you want to get done in the next week, no matter how big or how small, no matter how big or how inconsequential. Then return to your real list.

5. Do the thing that is bugging you

Sometimes there is something that you've been thinking of doing but it's not important enough to be included as one of the three items on your list and sometimes avoiding it takes up more energy than just doing it. Put it on your list for tomorrow and get it done.

Vanessa Loder is an author, an expert in women's leadership and mindfulness. You'll find more brilliant advice from her through her website.