How to Write a To-Do List

While this article is specifically for making a “writing to-do” list, the same techniques apply to any other type of to-do list.

1) Write it Down

Write it down on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you can see it.

If the list is in your head, it is not a to-do list

I confess, this is my biggest problem. I tend to keep everything in my head and get less accomplished than when I actually write it down, can see it, and can check it off when I’m done.

2) Be Specific

Vague, nebulous, or open-ended things are not doable items.

Things like:

  1. Start writing book
  2. Write some articles for website
  3. Do research on castles

are vague, open-ended tasks that either waste your time or cause you to procrastinate and avoid your to-do list.

A better list would be:

  1. Write two pages of book
  2. Write article on removing wine stains from table clothes for website
  3. Check Wikipedia for info on 13th century castles in Spain

3) Make it Doable

We are often told to “stretch ourselves”, or “to get out of our comfort zone”. And these are good mantras, but … if you have never written a book, then having “Write book” on your to-do list is way beyond stretching yourself.

Even something like “write chapter” is probably too much of a stretch, but something like, “write 2 pages” is doable (or maybe even just one page).

Don’t put what you would like to do, put down what you can do.

Suppose you have a book report to write, break it down into tasks you can do not tasks you hope to do.

Completing items on your to-do list has a strong positive psychological effect – “Yeah, I wrote two pages!” – which is going to encourage you to completing more than if you are left with the feeling, “Ugh, I still gotta write that book report.”

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