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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

3 Better Ways to Organize Your To-Do List

Ever heard that some productivity gurus say to scrap the traditional to-do list? Yeah, that’s just not an option for the vast majority of the working world. In fact, most of us take the opposite approach, putting all of our to-dos onto one massive list, which then just serves as a reminder of how much we’re not getting done.

The good news is that there are many other options for structuring your to-do list in a way that maximizes your efficiency. Whether you’re looking for a total productivity overhaul or just want to spice up your agenda, one of these options could be just what you need to rip through that list.

1. The Weekly To-Do List

A good friend of mine swears by this to-do list method—she organizes agenda items by what needs to get done during the week. Sure, she might have one or two agenda items marked off for a single day, but everything else for the week is thrown in on the same list.

Why it Works

Your levels of productivity ebb and flow throughout the week, and your to-do list should reflect that. You might feel sluggish on Monday and then ready to rule the world on Tuesday. When your to-do list is flexible, you might knock out one or two important items one day and then five on another. By the end of the work week, you’ll feel like you earned your weekend.

2. The Important To-Do List

Creating a to-do list is just the first step; prioritizing the items on that to-do list is a whole different beast.

One of the easiest ways to figure out what needs to get done first is to use a very handy tool called the Eisenhower Method (Alex Honeysett has a great write-up of how this works here). By using a simple table to separate items into varying levels of importance and urgency, you’ll be able to see what really needs to get done.

Why it Works

The Eisenhower Method is great if you’re getting through part of your to-do list—but realizing you’re doing all the easy agenda items instead of what actually needs to get to be completed. Would you rather spend time planning your upcoming vacation instead of typing out the monthly report for tomorrow’s meeting? Yes, but one is much more important (and urgent) than the other.

3. The Themed To-Do List

This is something I started doing after reading this tip from Twitter co-founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey. Dorsey once ran both companies at the same time (crazy, right?), and his secret to staying productive was pretty simple: Give each day of the week a “theme,” and then structure your daily to-do lists around that.

For example, I purposely put a lot of administrative tasks on Fridays, since it’s the end of the week and I’m ready for some mindless tasks by then. In contrast, Tuesdays are strictly for working on projects with no outside distractions, so all of my to-dos that day are oriented toward those initiatives.

Why it Works

Giving themes to your days can make them much less monotonous than if you go through the same exact routine every day. Also, if there are some things you absolutely dread doing, assigning them to a specific day can get rid of that stress (and also increase your chances of actually getting them done).

Do you organize your to-do list in an entirely different way? Let me know on Twitter!

Photo of to-do list courtesy of Shutterstock.