Writing a to-do list is a natural way to keep yourself focused on the tasks you need to complete, both for business and personal life. But if you find yourself not completing all your to-dos, you’re not alone.

In fact, one survey found that 41% of to-do list items are never completed.

So, how do you craft a to-do list you can actually finish? Here are some tips from business and productivity experts:


Break it into manageable pieces.

Rather than have one long, unwieldy list of every task awaiting your attention, create short, daily to-do lists, recommends business consultant Stacy Caprio. “Make a list every night for the next day,” she says. “It should be very specific and include just the two or three big things you can realistically do in one day, along with any smaller tasks you need to get done.” Beyond your daily to-do list, consider also keeping a longer master list of tasks to finish each week. Refer to that list when writing your daily lists, Caprio says.


Prioritize your list.

Put the most important things you need to finish at the top of your list—and do them first. This will reduce the odds of procrastinating on big or challenging tasks and keep you focused on those that are key to generating revenue or growing your business. “We have a limited amount of willpower each day, and with every decision we make, we decrease our willpower,” says Tiffany Toombs, director of Blue Lotus Mind Coaching & Training. “The more decisions we make before we get to the most important things on our to-do list, the less likely we are to finish those important things.”


Schedule them on your calendar.

Once you know what tasks you need to do, block out time on your electronic calendar. For example, if you need to respond to three important emails, consider how long writing the emails will take. Then carve out that much time and set alerts that remind you when it’s time to work on them.


Delegate tasks, when you can.

Don’t make the common business-owner mistake of trying to do everything yourself. If you have employees, consider whether there are tasks on your to-do list you can assign them, Toombs says. Delegating is also an important way to transfer skills and knowledge to the people who work for you, so they can fill in for you when necessary, she adds.


Use technology to make your lists dynamic.

Various technologies today can help you keep track of your to-dos, while motivating you and your team to complete them. Many team collaboration and project management tools for small businesses, such as monday.com and Trello, for example, have built-in “to-do” lists—allowing you to create a list for each project you’re working on—and assigning features. Apps including Wunderlist and Any.do let you create multiple to-do lists that can easily be prioritized and revised.


A to-do list can be a powerful tool in helping you get tasks done. But how you build and manage your list affects how effective it will be.

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