I remember the first time I set up my own to-do list. It was one ‘fine’ day after being overwhelmed at work.

People use to-do lists for various reasons — to be organized, stay productive, be on top of things, and the list goes on (see what I did there? Hah… no?). Regardless, there are some super effective tips and hacks to get the most out of your to-do list and avoid being counter-productive with it… which can actually happen.

Tip #1: Break it into two lists: To-do’s, and Dailies

With to-do lists, you want to be as organized as possible. Splitting up one-off tasks as to-do’s and organizing another list for daily routines that recur regularly can help you keep track of things in a more timely manner. In fact, you can even set up weekly, monthly lists if you find the need for it.

Some to-do lists like Bounty Tasker has a daily task column that resets everyday, making it easier and more efficient for you to be organized with your recurring tasks.

Tip #2: Never have more than seven items

Having more than seven items crosses a line where you start cluttering your to-do list and never actually get into action on anything.When you have too much on your to-do list, you actually get counter-productive — you would simply feel overwhelmed with the amount of tasks at hand and lost the motivation to get to any of it.

Note: Some people feel that five or less is a more suitable number. In essence, find your own sweet spot!

Tip #3: Use checklists to keep up with details

By using checklists with your main tasks, you can avoid any risk of accidentally forgetting any detail. At the same time, you also break down your tasks into smaller chunks when you set up checklists, allowing you to focus and work on each detail more precisely and efficiently.

Fun fact: Many modern project and team management methodologies (eg: agile sprints, scrums) encourage members to break down their tasks into detail as much as possible to be more efficient — essentially exercizing the same philosophies applied here.

Tip #4: Prioritize important tasks

Many to-do lists allow you to sort or arrange your tasks to keep it organized your way. Some people tend to finish the easy things first, and delay the inevitably time-consuming, bigger tasks, and end up overwhelmed and demotivated when they have to face it.

What we recommend is: You should definitely leverage on this by arranging tasks in order of priority — which tasks are more urgent to be completed, or to get started on right now?

Prioritizing your tasks like this lets you always be effective at accomplishing the most important work on time and overcome the most meaningful obstacles at any given time. So, ask yourself these questions, and arrange your tasks accordingly.

Tip #5: Focus on only one thing at a time

Regardless of whether multitasking works or not, focusing on one thing at a time on your to-do list allows you to very efficiently conquer your tasks. There’s no risk of split focus or context switching (both which reduces efficiency).

One frequently overlooked benefit of using a to-do list is that you already have everything noted and tracked. There’s no need to multitask because with a to-do list, you won’t risk forgetting something else as you focus on your current task.

Tip #6: Maintain a done list

A to-do list houses what you need to complete; a done list tracks what you have already accomplished (from your to-do list, of course).

While a to-do list may be most effective at helping you stay organized, done lists excel at keeping you motivated. By being able to view how much you have already accomplished, there’s a psychological effect that keeps you going for more.

Tip #7: Keep your list accessible

One mistake that I’ve made before setting up a proper list for myself was by writing my to-do list on random paper. I lose it too easily, and without it being reliably with me, I too often lose focus on what tasks I have to do.

Try to keep your list accessible with you so you can refer to it anytime and check things off when you can.

Tip #8: Use gamification to stay motivated

Many people view to-do lists as means to stay organized and be productive, but what separates a truly pleasant to-do list experience from a normal one is its ability to get you motivated for more.

Several apps use the art of gamification to help you get motivated. Some to-do lists like Todoist lets you unlock new badges as you complete more and more. Bounty Tasker even employs fun game elements to make real-life tasks feel like your very own quests that reward new items, defeat monsters, level up, and get more motivated.

Tip #9: Set reminders or deadlines

Reminders ping you when you need to get started on something; deadlines help keep track of when things need to be completed. Needless to say, these can definitely help you be more timely with tasks and make prioritizing tasks easier.

Some people do claim that it can sometimes create stress and cause counter-productivity if you’re unable to cope with the strict time management that comes with it, so feel free to try out the idea and see if it yay or nay for your productivity.

Tip #10: Set your heart out to be better

Many people forget this crucial point. There’s no to-do list and productivity hack that can truly help you if you don’t start with the right heart and mindset!

Be motivated to become a better version of yourself everyday. Heck, add that to your daily task list, hah! Be forgiving of any procrastinating backslides (we are all guilty), and keep striving to be productive. Then, there’s no doubt, a to-do list will very well complement what you set out to be.

Do you have any tips and tricks to be even more effective and make the best out of your to-do list? Share it with us in the comments!