Skip to Content

How to Organize To-Do Lists So Productivity is Easy.

How to Organize To-Do Lists So Productivity is Easy.

Sharing is caring!

Have you asked yourself, “how to organize to-do lists?” Productivity doesn’t feel easy with ADHD. As a matter of fact, it feels like you’re jumping from one rabbit hole to another. Organizing your to-do lists can help reduce the number of furry rodents home’s you invade.

For those who have ADHD, organizing their day-to-day tasks can be difficult. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the things that are on those lists. Or to lose focus when trying to tackle them one by one. To-Do Lists help provide structure and organization. This structure allows tasks to be tackled more efficiently.

Setting up an effective system for organizing To-Do Lists allows ADHD individuals to stay focused on the task at hand. This focus maintains productivity throughout the day. 

The first step in organizing To-Do Lists is to create a list of all the areas that need tasks completed during a given period. Once this is done, list the tasks that are most urgent each day or week. This will give you a general overview of everything you need to do and provide structure for tackling it all piece by piece.

Prioritizing tasks is also important for focusing on those items with a deadline first. This also allows for flexibility with hyper-focus activities if needed. Breaking project work into smaller sections will also help make it more manageable. Keeping an eye on long-term objectives.

Finally, having an organized space such as a planner or notebook will help keep track of progress. This progress can be made throughout the day, week, month, or year. It all depends on how big the project is and your part in it.

How To Organize To-Do Lists - To Do List Strategies For Adhd

How to Organize To-Do Lists

  1. Create a master list or a brain dump of all the projects
  2. Organize the projects by the due date
  3. Break the project down into smaller tasks
  4. Split the tasks out into daily or weekly to-do lists
  5. Keep all lists in an organized space

Now let’s talk about these steps in more detail below and how it may look different for someone with ADHD or dyslexia (says the lady with both).

Definition of To-Do List

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a to-do list as “A list of things to do.” This little definition brings up many emotions in people with ADHD. It feels hard to focus and a general list can have tasks from every aspect of one’s life.

An effective to-do list aims to break down all the things you need to do into small chunks.

These small chunks should be important tasks. But I challenge you to break those tasks down into things that can be done in smaller increments of time.

To learn more about effective to-do list formats, check out our post-Effective To-Do List Techniques – Even when you have ADHD. This post discusses to-do list methods, and how to make a to-do list.

And finally, assign a due date to them so they get done.

The definition of a to-do list doesn’t include how to use it effectively. Or how to organize it well. We will tackle this in this article. Next up are the benefits of organizing that unruly beast.

Benefits of Organizing a To-Do List

Organizing a to-do list can be very helpful for people with ADHD. Organizing tasks and deadlines into a list can help map out their work and stay motivated. Crossing items off the list is motivating. And it acts as positive reinforcement for staying focused.

I personally find I need a braindump for each project I’m working on, and I use those various braindumps to map out my tasks for the week. I use the weekly tasks list each day, I pick the top 3 that need to be completed. This allows me to keep moving forward and stop procrastinating.

A to-do list also helps those with ADHD stay focused on the task at hand. It also helps break down larger tasks into smaller achievable steps. Larger tasks leave a lot of openings for rabbit holes. It’s better to focus on tasks that you can complete in smaller chunks of time so that you can stay focused.

Look for your magic number! For me tasks that take longer than 20-25 minutes get avoided. So my task lists are created so that the task shouldn’t take longer than that short amount of time. I set a timer and go. Your magic number maybe smaller or larger.

Smaller items can help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with tackling large projects. Stress and anxiety lead to procrastination and overwhelm. Additionally, crossing off completed tasks from the list can provide a sense of accomplishment. This accomplishment can motivate an you to continue working towards your goals.

Ultimately, creating and utilizing a to-do list is an effective tool for managing time and staying organized. These are essential skills for those living with ADHD.

Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing a To-Do List

There are 5 basic steps to organizing a to-do list. The 5 steps are:

  1. Set Priorities – Prioritize Your Plan
  2. Break Tasks Into Manageable Pieces – Easy Tasks Get Done
  3. Create Daily Routines with a Weekly Plan and Stick to It – Check Your List Often
  4. Organize Your To-Do List by the Due Date
  5. Use the Right Tools and Technology 

Your to-do list isn’t just a hodge-podge of all the things you need to do. It’s a guide to completion and a major help in keeping you focused. Mastering a good to-do list sets you up for success.

1 – Set Priorities – Prioritize Your Plan

The first step to organizing your list is to set priorities. These priorities shouldn’t just focus on one aspect of your life. You may find it easier to create multiple lists for your personal and professional life. A project list for work, and home. Then use these lists to create a daily work list and a daily home list.

This (or these) master list will have lots of tasks you need to complete. The more projects you are working on the bigger the list. It will have significantly more than you can complete in a day. It’s your brain dump of every to-do and task you need to complete. It’s important to keep adding tasks to your to-do list. Just because you add an item does not mean it’s moved to the top of the list.

This list is the brain dump central you will add every task to, but it’s best practice to work from a much smaller list to help you focus. This lets you divide and conquer the monster list over time. But make sure to jot down to-dos on this brain dump list as they occur to you.

2 – Break Tasks Into Manageable Pieces – Easy Tasks Get Done

In line with breaking the list down, you will want to break the task into small easy tasks.

For example, cleaning the kitchen is a task. But this task creates a massive sense of dread in many. But you have control of your tasks. So you may want to consider breaking this task into smaller “chunks”. Cleaning the kitchen can be broken down into several smaller tasks.

Examples of smaller kitchen cleaning tasks:

  • Pick up all the trash on the counters
  • Put away the seasonings
  • Put all leftovers into storage containers
  • Put all dishes into the sink
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Rinse the dishes
  • Load the dishwasher
  • Wipe down the counters
  • Wipe down the stove
  • Sweep the floor

Each task in the above list takes just a few minutes. And once a task is complete it can be checked off. A to-do list with small manageable chunks like this helps you stay on top of your progress.

And a big bonus, the act of checking things off builds motivation. On the other hand, a single task of “Clean the Kitchen” feels much harder.

This breakdown is known as a step-by-step process. And the more of these you can create the less overwhelmed you’ll feel.

Create Daily Routines with a Weekly Plan and Stick to It – Check Your List Often

Part of organizing the to-do list is reviewing it frequently for adjusted priorities and timelines. This is challenging with ADHD, so the best way to accomplish this is to create small daily routines and a weekly plan.

There is a psychology of to-do lists, it can either work for you or against you. Checking off items on a to-do list gives you a happy rush. But on the other hand, if your list is so big you feel you’ll never finish it can add to the overwhelm. Small routines and small lists help with this.

Creating small routines in a weekly plan is an important step for those who have ADHD.

Routines help to make sure that tasks get completed. And this helps you stay organized and on track. It gives you a chance to organize your tasks that take longer than one session to complete or remember the task dependencies that occur.

Routines help to establish habits that make it easier to complete tasks and maintain focus.

When creating a weekly plan, start by adding tasks with a deadline. Once this is done add in your basic needs. For example, add time for deadline tasks. And then set aside time for meals, recreation, and family time. You can also plan activities such as doctor visits or special events.

A written plan will help keep you focused. This focuses on the task at hand and ensures everything gets done. By taking the time to create routines and sticking to them, you can make sure that your days are productive and enjoyable.

By including a routine to check your daily to-do list, you’re more likely to complete the work you’re trying to accomplish. This is helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a large project.

Create these routines for all areas of your life. Just like your to-do list, your routines should help you with work, home, and even self-care tasks. A to-do list helps break down projects that feel too big or overwhelming.

Organize Your To-Do List by Due Date

Organizing your list by the due date is a great way to be proactive and stay on top of tasks.

Those of us with ADHD can especially benefit from this type of organization, as it helps us break down tasks into more manageable pieces.

For example, you can separate your list into three categories: urgent items that need to be completed today, things needed in the next few days, and long-term goals.

This will help you process and focus on what needs to be done first and what can wait for later.

Additionally, color coding or creating visual reminders for deadlines can help you better prioritize. Our weekly digital planners are set up so that you can color code your time blocks for specific tasks. This helps you move from one set of activities to another.

Making sure everything is organized by the due date is an effective way to make sure nothing slips through the cracks!

Use the Right Tools and Technology

Using the right tools and technology can make a big difference for neurodivergent individuals. Neurodivergence includes those with ADHD or dyslexia.

Having the right technology can help these individuals manage their tasks better and stay organized. It may look a little different than what some use daily.

For example, using a handwritten to-do list can help an individual with ADHD remember tasks and deadlines that need to be met. While a person with dyslexia could benefit from assistive technologies such as spell checkers or voice-to-text software.

Technology can also provide support for focusing on projects, staying organized, and developing strategies that are tailored to individual needs.

There are a ton of free to-do list apps available including ToDoist, Trello, Asana, ClickUp, and Notion. You can use any of these apps to make a to-do list.

With the right tools and technology, neurodivergent individuals have the opportunity to effectively manage their day-to-day life. And this management helps them to reach their full potential.

Getting Organized for Task Management

One step that isn’t often discussed is the organization it takes to create a plan for yourself. It can be a challenge to create a plan and stick to it when you have ADHD.

As a software architect and project manager, I have a few tips that have saved me. These apply to both at home and at work.

The biggest tip I have is to do your planning in one central place.

The place you choose is up to you. It can be done with a written to-do list or a digital to-do list.

The key is that you have one place for planning so you don’t lose your plan when you get sidetracked. Because you will get sidetracked.

Next up is your master list. This brain dump list includes everything you can think of for your projects. But don’t move them to your daily to-do list until you have broken the big tasks down into the smallest possible “chunk”.

I have also found that adding more than 5 items to a daily list tends to backfire. This happens even if it’s full of small items. It’s easier to hyper-focus on 5 tasks and complete them.

The perk of having one to-do list with many tasks is that you can always add more to your day. This helps you better plan your time.

And finally, the planning routine is important to get more done. I use time-blocking with my weekly to-do list to accomplish this. Review the running list, and update it as you complete a task.

I find using the brain-dump list to plan out the week the key to staying on top of my ever-growing task list, both at home and at work.

Recap of Tips for Organizing a To-Do List

The 5 steps to organize your work are:

  1. Set Priorities – Prioritize Your Plan
  2.  Break Tasks Into Manageable Pieces – Easy Tasks Get Done
  3.  Create Daily Routines with a Weekly Plan and Stick to It – Check Your List Often
  4.  Organize Your To-Do List by the Due Date
  5.  Use the Right Tools and Technology 

As you work through creating your list there are a couple of things you can do to increase motivation.

  1. Take breaks
  2. Reward yourself for your accomplishments
  3. Keep your list with you
  4. Consider delegating what you can. (A delegated task is a done task, just remember to follow up with the person you delegated it to.)
  5. Stay flexible with your plans ( This will reduce the overwhelm and the need for perfection.)
  6. Don’t add more than 5 tasks to your daily list. (You can always add more tasks from your brain dump.)