To-Do List: The last Guide You’d ever Need

To-Do List: The last Guide You’d ever Need

Whether it be understanding how a log floats in water or decoding the Infinity, we have always tried to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Whatever the course of action to solve the mystery, the basic point has been to break incomprehensible things into smaller pieces to develop a better understanding.

In simpler words, we have always created steps to reach our ultimate goal.
By creating a modified or unmodified version of a To-Do List.

To-Do List is a powerful yet one of the most misinterpreted tools. And like our New Year resolutions, they are easy to create but difficult to carry out.

Needless to say, there are hundreds of articles out there trying to explain the most efficient ways or methods to complete the list. Skimming through each one of them is time-consuming, which is exactly what you should be saving right now.

And this is why I decided to do the legwork for you by compiling everything that you need to know into one single Blog Post.

So, Let’s get started!

What is a To-Do List?

As you must have guessed by now, A To-Do List is simply a list that consists of tasks that need to be done organized in the right order. This way we don’t forget the important stuff, keep things organized and finish the tasks of high priority first.

For our convenience, It can be divided into 2 types:

• Visual

This is for those who prefer to organize tasks based on aesthecity. Random scribbling on a piece of paper just isn’t for them. Digital lists such as software and apps are great for them.

Unfortunately, if you check out playstore, you’ll be flooded with hundreds of apps and each claims to be better than the other. This is why I chose 10 best apps and write descriptively about each to save your time.

• Written

If you are someone who likes striking items off and don’t really care about the appearance of the List (okay, at least a little less than the others) then this method is for you. You can use diary or buy planners to get things done.

Scroll down for FREE printable to-do list Templates.

Who developed To-Do List?

Throughout the History, there have been several people who have regularly used to-do lists. The most prominent of them were Benjamin Franklin and Ivy Lee.

🌟Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is one of the Founding fathers of United States. He was the one to represent America in France during American Revolution.

In fact, Wikipedia says that he was active as a writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher too!

Now, this successful guy was greatly inspired by todo lists. So much so that he even wrote a detailed 13-weeks plan. This is what it looked like,

Benjamin Franklin's to-do list
Benjamin Franklin’s To-Do List

3 Ways to efficient ways to ‘ruinyour list

Avoiding the common mistakes while creating a to-do list is easier, but what’s difficult is to avoid the path of these 3 vicious traps. However, once you master these 3 elements, you win half the race.

• Deviating from the actual Goal

Our End Goal is to get tasks done. We shouldn’t be too focused on the aesthetic part or the time limit. If the tasks are not time-bound or If the list looks crappy, we get the opposite of what we expect, I agree. But finishing a satisfactory amount of work should be our priority.

Sure, they are good metrics that guide us in completing tasks but they shouldn’t be considered as mandatory rules.

• Perfection

Perfectionism is when we raise unrealistic standards for ourselves and end up spending too much time on a single task. Whereas, efficiency is when we cover that task in a smart way within a set amount of time.

Perfectionism is the enemy of Productivity and when we disguise perfectionism with efficiency, we block our chances of succeeding. Instead of focusing on finishing one task 100%, it’s better to finish 2 tasks simultaneously by completing only 80% of the work.

Perfection doesn’t have to be productivity Enemy. It’s good to have high standards while working. However, when we try to achieve those standards all the time compulsorily, that’s when the problem arises. The point is not to simply finish a task but to add value.

You should Read: 6 Most Common To-Do List Mistakes

• Improper Time Management

With a limited amount of time in our hand, we need to craft our day wisely. We can’t be juggling around with multiple tasks at a time, giving divided attention to everything at the same time.

This is why we should timebox (Allotting limited amount of time to each task) all our activities. Initially, you may face problems of overestimating or underestimating the time required to complete each tasks but this problem would fade away quickly.

The point is to finish the list without feeling overwhelmed or anxious, not losing track of the time.

There are 3 major methods that I personally use for efficient result – The Calendar Method, One at a time method, and the Day Tracking Method. Continue reading to learn more about them –

3 Methods of To-Do list

To-Do Lists are like New Year resolutions. Easy to create, difficult to finish. So, simply having a list isn’t enough, you need to develop system and strategies to conquer your to-do lists.

It’s not a rocket science or anything, so you need not be much worried about. Here are some of the common approaches you can take to complete your list.

– The Calendar Method

Calendar Method

Calendar Method is where you schedule out your entire day. I prefer using google calendar because it’s easy to access and there’s a feature of color coding.

Plus, there are reminders!

– One at a Time Method

One at a time Method is a technique where you choose only one task and decide to focus only and only on that one task.

Focusing on a single task improve our level of concentration and reduces the stress level caused by other tasks on the list. This works wonderfully for those who are easily distracted. If distraction is a major issue for you,

You should Read: 6 Tips for Delayed Gratification and why it is Important

Instead of choosing 3 tasks to work with, choose a single task and focus on finishing it. Don’t move to another task until you finish that one task.

– Day Tracking Method

As an Introvert (INTP), I have hard time following monotonous routines. Planning everything in advance can be big turn off for me. So, I chose an uncommon method to complete my to-do list,

NO list at all!

The concept is easy. You start off by working on a task, and proceed with recording whatever you worked on and the time spent on that task. Repeat this process until you call it a day.

Before going to bed, analyse how you spend your time in a day and what constitutes most of your time. This will give you an Idea on what habits need to be controlled.

Not-to-do List + To-Do List = 🤯

A Not-to-do list is simply a list that consists of activities that you shouldn’t be doing. For example, using social media during work hours, or eating healthier food.

The major difference between the 2 lists is that the former one is used to build or break habits. It is constant most of the days. The latter one is used to just complete the tasks, which isn’t repetitive.

When both these lists (Not-to-do & to-do) are used together, the results can be much more productive than using either of them Independently.

You should Read: Importance of a Not-to-do-list

Do YOU even need a to-do List?

Lists are the basic method of organizing that we learn from a young age. So, you can’t deny the fact that you have never used one.

When the question comes of whether you need it or not, the answer is Yes.

Whether it be random scribbling of tasks on a paper or using a proper template we all use a modified or unmodified version of the todo list. However, from the productivity aspect – Not everyone gain benefits out of to-do lists.

I personally use them only to build the initial momentum. Once I attain it, my list lays aside. So, I’d say that it depends on the type of work, and your personality.

If you believe that to-do list would add value to your productive aspect, the question arises which on you should choose – Analog or Digital?

Paper or Digital, Which is better?

There are 2 methods of creating a list – Paper or Digital. Both of them come with pros and cons of their own. So when the question boils down to which one is better, it depends on individuals, and their work load.

Pros/Cons of Analog (Paper) To-Do list

1. Writing on Paper is fast

According to the researchers at the University of Tokyo, writing on physical paper leads to stronger brain activity. This leads to the better recalling of Information. Moreover, we write 25% faster on paper than the digital platforms.

Apart from that, using papers over digital platforms we can easily highlight, draw arrows and encircle necessary stuff, improving our creativity.

2. List is easy to Change

Unlike digital platforms, creating new lists on paper is easier and faster.

3. Good for your Eyes!

Digitalization of the majority of things has increased our screen-time like never before. Planning the day wisely and taking maximum time off the screen whenever possible is the best we can do to protect our eyes.

So, Whether it be 5 minutes or 10 minutes for the sake of your eyes, use a paper to-do list every once in a while.

4. Synchronization isn’t required

Don’t remember your Gmail password?
Ugh…. well, you can’t synchronize your work on various devices.

However, if you don’t have the habit of forgetting your passwords and know how to synchronize then a digital list won’t be a huge problem for you. Otherwise, it would be better to stick to an Analog List.

5. Reorganizing/Rescheduling is difficult

If you mess up the order of your tasks, things can get unappealing to the eyes. I don’t know about you but umm… I end up committing this mistake most of the time. thus, losing even the little interest that I sometimes have.

6. No Reminders

One of the biggest drawbacks of using a paper to-do list is that there are no reminders. So, it’s easy to lose track of the time and mess up the schedule.

If you are a forgetful person like me, then it would be better for you to use a digital list.

Pros/Cons of Digital To-Do list

1. Aesthetically pleasing templates

Aesthetics influences people’s thoughts and thinking patterns. And digital apps are famously known to offer aesthetic to-do list templates.

2. More Accessible (If synchronization isn’t a Problem)

If synchronization isn’t a problem for you, then you should definitely go for digital lists. They are handy because they are accessible from almost anywhere.

Doesn’t matter if you recently exchanged your mobile phones, or use someone else’s device, you can easily get the list on your screen.

All it takes is a simple Google or Facebook log-in!

You should Read: 10 FREE To-Do List Apps for 2021

3. Easy to sort the tasks

Prioritizing is an essential part of productivity. Features such as label, categorizing and color-coding help us sort the items in the right order. Thus, increasing our focus.

When you are working in a team, a visual approach is essential for fast-paced work and some of the free digital list apps usually offer the option of sorting.

4. Reorganizing/Rescheduling is easy

If you mess up the order of your tasks, things can get unappealing to the eyes. It happens to me all the time. However, when you use a digital list, the appearance of the list isn’t affected by adding new tasks. Thus, keeping things neat and clean.

5. Too much of Screen time

One of the biggest drawbacks of using digital lists is the amount of time we spend looking at the screen. This is harmful to our eyes and ultimately our health. Try to avoid it as much as you can.

However, If your work really demands the usage of a digital to-do list, try using the eye protection option on your computer.

6. Reminders available!

Reminders are a gem of a feature. They help us complete the tasks within the set time limit, especially when there are several people working together on a project.

Which one is better?

If you are a student who’s looking forward to reducing their screen time and distractions, the analog to-do list would do wonders for you. They are easier to create and are enough to complete the basic tasks.

For those working with a team on a project, digital to-do lists are the best. As they are less complex, reorganizable, and easier to use for larger teams. There are reminders and a sync-in option which makes the work process smooth.

These are no hard fast rules though. Just choose a method that seems easier to you and get started with the work. The point is not to create amazing, never-seen-before to-do lists but to finish the tasks.

We’d love to hear which one of the 2 you would prefer to use. Share it with us in the comment section down below.

2 Ways of Using Analog To-Do Lists

1. Bullet Journal

Bullet Journal is when you arrange the items on the list in bullet points. It is mainly of 2 types – Index Log and Future Log. Index Log includes section and page numbers. Whereas, the future log includes daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists.

– Index Log

Index log, as must have guessed, refers to creating a list consisting of page and section numbers.

– Future Log

Needless to say, the Future log includes tasks that need to be completed in the future. The list can be created for daily, weekly, and monthly goals.

Trike off the task when completed. If a task is pending or needs to be rescheduled, add a random sign in front of it – say, a circle. However, If a task needs to be moved to a future list, add another sign – say, an arrow.

2. Productivity Planner

If you haven’t heard about Productivity Planners, You must living under a rock for sure.

because it’s the all-time go of all YouTubers and productivity lovers. Doesn’t matter whether they are Amateur or Experts.

I won’t swear by productivity planners, but they definitely help quite a lot. It’s especially good for those who aren’t experts on creating aesthetic to-do lists.

In order to get things done, You don’t have to buy expensive journals and productivity planners. A pen and paper would work just fine. But the question is how to create your very own list?

Here’s How.

#1: Choose any 3 tasks

#2: Arrange them in the order of importance and priority

#3: Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus only on one task at a time, nothing else.

#4: Focus. Focus. Focus.

#4: Finished the list? Repeat.

At the end of the day, review your progress. Analyze all the tasks that you completed. If there are any pending tasks, mention the reason why you couldn’t complete them.

Don’t forget to appreciate the small successes and forgive yourself for procrastinating.

Top 3 To-Do List Apps 

To-Do List is the best way to keep away from work anxiety but unfortunately, our phones don’t have an inbuild to-do list. With no other option, we start hunting the app which fits our needs.

Choosing the right app that is tailored according to our needs is difficult, puzzling, and most importantly time-consuming!

And this is why I did the legwork for you and compiled some of the best free To-Do List Apps. Here are the top 3 of them:

• nTask

ntask manager - a to-do list app
Image Source:

If your work demands powerful time-management features, then you should definitely go for nTask. This application was created keeping the needs of both individuals and teams in mind.

The Interface is simple and easy to use. The app allows third-party integration with zoom, google calendar, etc. For safety purposes, 2-factor authentication is available. The most efficient features of the app are – timesheets, progress reports, timelines, Gantt Charts, etc.

The drawbacks of this application are that there is only 100MB of storage in the free version and there is no desktop app for it.

• TickTick

Tick Tick - a to-do list app
Image Source:

TickTick comes with all the best basic features such as – adding tasks, subtasks, setting reminders, deadlines, adding priority, labels, etc.

The app has a user-friendly interface with a calendar view for people. There is also the option of storage and data retrieval. However, the best feature of this app is its time tracking feature – the Pomodoro Timer.

The downside of this app is that it cannot be integrated with other apps.

– TeuxDeux

Teux Deux - a to-do list App
Image Source:

This app isn’t free but there’s a free 30 days trial. The downside of this app is that it’s only available of iOS and the web.

However, the reason why we decided to mention it is that, this app meets all our personal criteria. The tasks can be synced with the calendar and multiple devices at a time.

Moreover, if you miss a task, it is automatically shifted to the next day’s task. I find that pretty interesting!

The Secret Ingredients of a Smart To-Do List

As a beginner, finishing off all the tasks assigned on the to-do list is difficult. Especially, if the individual is a frequent procrastinator. The process can become painful and overwhelming when you are lagging behind.

In such situations, you NEED to have 2 secret ingredients in your plan. Only and only when you utilize them, you’ll develop the habit of conquering your list. So, what are these 2 secret ingredients?

Forgiveness and Delayed Gratification.

Seems simple enough, I know but when used in long term, they have a powerful effect on all aspects of our life.

Right now, this might feel like the obvious thing, but in practical scenarios when you haven’t even started the project and the deadline’s nearby, these ‘obvious’ elements are the first ones to be forgotten.

Avoid the Zeigernaik Effect Trap

You are more likely to remember the unfinished or interrupted tasks, as compared to finished tasks. Relatable, right?

Well, guess what? This isn’t a coincidence. This phenomenon is more common than you think. It’s called the Zeigernaik Effect.

When you start using a to-do list, there will be several occasions when you’ll miss a couple of tasks on the list. It’s normal, everyone goes through that phase. However, what matters is how you respond to such situations.

Do you ruin the entire day or week because of that one small unfinished task, or do you avoid overthinking and move to other tasks?

Remember that productivity isn’t about perfection, it’s about the efforts. If you failed to finish something because of some unexpected situation or despite your efforts, you have made progress!

If you tend to procrastinate a lot and end up with several unfinished tasks, on regular basis then there is something wrong with your system. Instead of blaming or feeling guilty, try to figure out why you procrastinate and work on it.

Forgiveness is a vital part of life. It’s easier said than done, I know but it is one single thing that is capable of gradually healing all the wounds.

Free Printable To-Do List Templates


The main aim of to-do lists is to avoid overwhelming emotions. So, if you have a habit of setting unrealistic goals or overestimating yourself by adding several tasks in the list – you are setting a trap for yourself.

This trap can lower your self-esteem and make you procrastinate on important stuff, which is exactly the opposite of what we want, right?

You can use 3 methods to approach your to-do lists: The Calendar Method, One at a time Method, and Day Tracking Method. I use these 3 methods all the time and they work for me well. Share in the Comment Section below whether it worked for you or not!

The most efficient way of conquering a to-do list is by using it along with a not-to-do list.

The major difference between the 2 lists is that the former one is used to build or break habits. It is constant most of the days. The latter one is used to just complete the tasks, which isn’t repetitive.

When it comes to the type of list to use, you have the option of digital or analog to-do lists. Whatever type you use, always remember the 3 productivity rules – Sticking to the Goal, Avoiding Perfectionism, and efficient Time Management.

You have finished half the race once you master these 3 elements.

The other half of the race can only be one when you have 2 extremely important habits – Forgiveness and Delayed Gratification. At the end of the day what matters is how you respond to a given situation, and not the excuses.

Reached the end? Ready to bring some worth-mentioning changes in your life?

If I were you, I’d start by reading more and developing deeper insight. 😉

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2 responses to “To-Do List: The last Guide You’d ever Need”

  1. Am loving the quality of your posts. And the printables at the end really seal the deal. Yet another banger of an article here, and I just explored the Zeigarnik effect with utmost interest too. Thanks for this, Julie!

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