The right way to write the best to do list (you’ve probably been doing it wrong)

Redo your to do list
Best to do list

Have you ever started your Monday with a scrambled brain, thinking of all of the major things you need to accomplish for the week? The big picture can paralyze us. Here’s how to structure the scramble into the best to do list so you can actually get it all done.

As parents, we have approximately seventeen million things on our to do checklist on any given day. Work projects, phone calls to return, emails to manage, shopping for school supplies, preparing for spirit week outfits (so stressful, right!?), conference calls, meal planning, PLUS try to fit in 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you never check off all of your to-do’s at the end of the day, this is the post for you. 

Project overwhelm can be debilitating. However, there’s a pretty simple solution: redo your to do list. David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity, is an entire book dedicated to mastering the art of organizing your tasks. He advises simplifying what really needs to get done by separating your projects into simple, doable steps. 

Part of being able to stick to New Year’s resolutions is turning them into small, doable steps. Momentum planner teaches the same approach to handle projects.

Here’s what we find to be the simple and most effective, no matter what kind of project or goal you’re trying to accomplish. It works just as well for personal projects as it does professional.

The wrong way to write your to do list

Here’s what I used to do: write everything on one long list, then try to prioritize it. I would try to organize by project and all of the steps within that project, and I had so much to do I didn’t what to do next. It was unorganized, confusing, and things easily slipped through the cracks. If I was waiting on something, the to do stayed on the list. The things on my list often had multiple steps, rather than one thing I could check off.

The right way to write the best to do list

Divide your to-dos into three lists: a project list, the very next step list, and the “waiting for” list.


This is the list with the final step. The entire project. Your goal. Some refer to it as the Master List. Schedule deadlines for these. Keep all of your projects on this list, and you can refer to it when tackling your day.

  • Submit the 2021 Marketing Plan
  • Send the email newsletter
  • Plan an event
  • Send Christmas cards


Take a look at your project list and think of the very next step – something you can check off – and add it to your daily to do list. This is something you can do and immediately check off – it doesn’t require a series of things to complete. 

  • Outline the top five goals for the 2021 marketing plan (next step for submitting the 2021 marketing plan)
  • Draft the newsletter (next step to sending the email newsletter)
  • Email team for meeting to discuss logistics (next step for planning the event)


Once you’ve completed your next step, you may be waiting on someone else to finish something before you can continue – and you don’t want to forget in case you need to follow up. This isn’t something you can actively check off, so on to another list it goes! Add the person + date you requested so you can flag when to follow up.

  • Draft in review (Send the email newsletter)
  • Availability for meeting (Plan the event)


  • Add deadlines to your calendar. 
  • Schedule time each week to plan for the next week. Look and update your project list. Write down your goals for the week. Fill in the next steps on the days you want to get them done.
  • Limit your focus per day on 3-5 projects, allowing time for all of the little things that come up, email, phone calls, meetings, etc.

Apps promise to keep you organized. Digital lists somehow turn into an over complicated mess and things get dropped. A paper planner is the way to go. Plus, there are so many pretty & popular 2021 paper planner options!

Happy planning, y’all. May you reach all of your goals and check everything off your to do list in 2021 🥂

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