Top secrets for making a to-do list that actually works

A to-do list is just a list of things you have to-do. That means basically anything and everything can be on your to-do list—but just because you’ve written your to-dos down doesn’t mean your to-do list is actually useful.

Capture everything It’s better to write something down and mark it as complete later than to forget what you wanted to do in the first place.

Reducing the reliance on the human brain and memory makes life easier for your future self. Asana helps us decrease cognitive load for people and provide clarity.” —AMY NELSON, CEO, VENTURE FOR AMERICA

Lists, lists, and more lists To take control of your to-do list and get your best work done, consider making more than one list. For example, make sure each project or large initiative has its own list.

Organize your to-do list by workflow, priority, or due date

Make it actionable Your to-do list is not the place to store thoughts or goals.  Those details are important to capture, but if you keep everything in one to-do list your important workmight get lost or buried. Instead, aim to capture those items in a project management tool or goal management system.

Verbs first, details later In addition to making sure every to-do is actionable, we recommend starting most to-do titles off with a verb. While this isn’t a make-or-break rule, starting to-dos with a verb will help you know exactly what each to-do is about.

Prioritize your to-dos In order to make sure you get the right work done on time, it’s important to know which of your to-dos are most important. Whether you put the most important to-dos at the top or use custom tags to flag priority, make sure you have visibility into your critical work, so you don’t miss anything.

Always include a deadline When it comes to hitting your to-dos, you don’t just need to know what to do—you also need to know when to do it by. Finishing all of your important tasks doesn’t mean much if they’re finished on the wrong day.

Break big work into smaller tasks One of the biggest struggles with accurately hitting your to-dos is seeing something that’s due tomorrow but then realizing, “Woah, this is actually a week’s worth of work.”

Celebrate your progress Every time you check something off your to-do list, you’ve accomplished something. That’s a big deal! You should celebrate, even if it’s only a little pat on the back.