Three steps to an effective to-do list

December 6, 2015

I don’t know many people who don’t keep to-do lists of some kind, though I know they exist; some are amazing and get everything done, others, well, a lot of nothing often gets done, which I think is okay with them (and more power to ‘em if that works for them).  I have been guilty of having ridiculously long lists of things to do and then ridiculously getting overwhelmed, and then a lot of nothing got done.  


Since becoming a coach and helping others with having better organization and efficiency in their lives, along with clearer spaces (declutter, everyone! It will make you feel better!), I’ve boiled down to-do lists through experience in classes with productivity experts to include what has made a big difference for me and my clients:

  1. Get extremely specific.  The more vague a term you put on a list, the less likely you will do it.  If you write “shopping” down, and you have six places to go that day, and don’t specify where you’re going and what you are going to get there, chances are good you will forget something or give up after stop three.  Writing down “hardware store,” “jewelry store,” “pet food store,” “home brew supply store,” “very specific widget store,” etc. helps you remember it all, and most likely plan your route more efficiently.  Having lists of what you are getting at each store is obviously most helpful, too.
  2. Really important thing that most people don’t do:  Add a time estimate for every item on your to-do list.  I believe I learned this from splendid master coach, Anna Kunnecke of, along with countless other life organization tools.  We usually always underestimate how much time something will take to do, and then complain about not having enough time and not getting enough done.  If we look at the amount of time we have for those shopping errands, and take the time to be realistic about how much time it will take to go from place to place and in each place, we’ll have a better idea if we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, and then course correct/readjust the list from there.  Better to overestimate how much time something will take than not get important things done.
  3. Add the to-dos onto your calendar, paper or electronic:  I have found this tremendously helpful.  If they’re in there, I won’t forget, as I look at my calendar a lot.  It helps with accountability, and also with time estimation.  


I’ve studied a little bit about minimalism and essentialism (no pun intended), and encourage us all to do less and do what really matters the most first, so as to live the lives we really want to be living, not frantically trying to check things off a never-ending to-do list.  



I help people access their courage and do the work of making personal changes by creating safe space and providing compassionate, practical support.  I'm a certified life coach with a M.A. in Counseling.  If you'd like information on how to make changes and realize dreams, please click here.


Find me at, and on Facebook, Lauren Oujiri Coaching.


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