Creating a Winning To-Do List

A new year means it’s time to get organized. We’ve all said that before, right? But how can we make sure this year we follow through?

A to-do list can go a long way toward helping you stay on track, but it has to be effective, says Laura Vanderkam, productivity expert and author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. She shares these tips for creating lists that will keep you productive all year long.

Think short and sweet. There is no virtue in putting something on a to-do list only to lack the time to complete it. Be honest with yourself, Vanderkam says. “Keep your list short—only a few items for any given day—and don’t put anything on the list that you don’t actually intend to do.”

Keep it low-tech. “Yes, I know everything is electronic these days, but I personally get a lot of satisfaction in crossing off items—and seeing them crossed off,” Vanderkam explains.

Categorize your to-dos. Separate your to-do lists into categories, such as “career,” “relationships,” and “self.” Doing so forces you to take a big-picture view and “will nudge you to create a more balanced life,” Vanderkam says.

Don’t forget the fun. Some people avoid planning because they view it as a negative activity—lists of all the stuff they have to do, Vanderkam says. “So why not include lots of stuff you want to do as well? This can make the process much more enjoyable.”

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