How to Build a To-Do List That Works


As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate and you probably have a long list of things to do that may feel overwhelming. Plus, you need to constantly be on the look-out for new and exciting ways to grow your business.

Here are three ways to build a to-do list that will help you stay organized and creative:

  1. Keep your task list focused. Whether you like to write things down on a notepad or in a planner, or you prefer an app, making a to-do list of your daily tasks keeps you focused. But don’t go crazy with your list. Focus only on the tasks you need to accomplish that day. People tend to write too many things down to complete in one day. If you’re guilty of this habit, you may find that over time you feel you’re not progressing in the way you desire (both personally and professionally).

Example: One business owner explained that she writes down her to-do list in her planner each day to stay focused on priorities. She enjoys checking tasks off her list — it helps her feel successful. She has also learned to keep her list short and focused on only the priorities of the day.

  1. Be intentional with your lists. A to-do list isn’t just about having your task list designed for each day. A to-do list also includes writing down ideas and plans for your future. If you’re not looking forward and being creative, who is?

Example: An owner of a small t-shirt company shared that she writes down quotes and quips she hears each day in an app she has on her phone — at least one or two a day. She uses this list of ideas to create new and unique t-shirt designs for her customers.

  1. Get obsessed with essential things. Keep a list of everyone you come in contact with at your company — from customers to employees to vendors. Write down all you can remember about these key individuals and rate them in terms of how critical they are to your business now and in the future.

Example: One local attorney uses a spreadsheet to keep track of clients, including those with connections that may help his business in the future. He also tracks the account representatives he speaks to regularly and rates how responsive they are. And lastly, he keeps track of community leaders that may be helpful contacts in the future.

Digital or manual? You decide.

Every list you keep is different. While you may like the simple approach to maintaining a to-do list in your planner, you should consider using a digital planning app to help when you’re managing a business. Most digital planning apps allow you to:

    • Create and organize multiple lists (not just a task list)
    • Set reminders
    • Sync your apps across all your devices
    • Share tasks with others
    • Prioritize tasks

Example: If you own a restaurant, you can assign a cleaning list to one employee and a sales-oriented list to another employee. As they complete the tasks on their lists, they mark them on the app and you’ll know where everyone stands at any given time.

Make a list (or two) and check it twice.

Review your lists daily to ensure you continue to focus on what’s most important to you and your company. Make adjustments when needed to stay focused on your envisioned future. Your efforts each day will help you feel more accomplished and rejuvenated for the next day (and beyond).

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