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Why a MASTER TO DO LIST works best!

Most people tend to write a daily TO DO list – writing into it what is their top priority at the time of writing.

They write EVERYTHING they can think of to it – not prioritising or scheduling it at all.

It’s usually a long list that’s intimidating at best, and impossible at worst, and is basically setting people up for a fall as usually there will be loads left on it by the end of the day, and more added to the bottom.

The phrase “never ending TO DO list” springs to mind! – but there must be a better way of working, right?

why a master TO DO list works best

Well – I am not here to say that this way is totally wrong, far from it. If it works for you, genuinely, then carry on. Getting organised is creating a system that works best for you and that saves you time and effort – so don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!

But if you’re not one of those people, here’s what I think is a better way of making sure you utilise your TO DO list so that you are running IT and not the other way round.

Whats so wrong with a daily TO DO list anyway?

A daily TO DO list tends to be a reactive list – based on what has come up and is in your immediate area of concern for that time. It tends to forget about the tasks you need to do to reach your goals in life as they are not ones that absolutely need your attention at that minute, and as such you can feel very deflated at the end of the day.

You have worked hard, done lots, but achieved very little.

Sound familiar?

It makes for a “busy” person – but not necessarily an effective person. Its like always chasing your tail!


How can I make my TO DO list work for me?

Being proactive rather than reactive is the name of the game when it comes to getting more organised.

You need to be fully aware of your time, and how much you need for the tasks that you already have scheduled for that day. Being realistic about how much “spare” time you have, and how long tasks really take is half of the battle.

Much better to get 2-3 crucial things done well each day than several insignificant tasks.

You also don’t want to be so busy that theres no room for manouvre (think of those unexpected things that ALWAYS crop up that suck your time from you each day)

The key is getting the balance right between not wasting your time and not getting stressed about things along the way.

What I use, and what serves me very well from both a homemaker and a “working for myself from home mum” view point is my MASTER TO DO list.



A master TO DO list is basically an ongoing list that is upkept daily, but not written out daily – that is kept inside your diary and works in tandem with it.

It has on it EVERYTHING you need to do, in every part of your life – on ONE list.

It tells you what priority things have, how long estimated time it will take to complete, and is broken down into manageable peices of work.

It is where you add anything that crops up on a daily basis TO DO, and where you go to fill in any time gaps in your day.

It will keep you focused, give you a great overview of where you are in all apsects of your life, and will really help manage your way towards your goals.


How do I create a Master TO DO list?

STEP ONE – Give your life Headings!

We all have different roles and responsibilities in life, and its important to understand what yours are. It will help you to see your life as a whole, and determine what you want and need to do in each area. They are very top level headings for now – which will be more detailed at a later stage – but its important to think general first so that you don’t miss anything!

Examples of such headings are as follows:-

  • Home
  • Each person in your home can have their own heading with things you need to do for each of them
  • Business / Work
  • Hobbies
  • Club Memberships
  • Social

STEP TWO – Give each Heading some Project Names

Each of these headings can be split up into projects- just as you would have several projects as an employee, so too you have projects within your home, and business. This helps to define areas of attention, and works just as well inside the home as inside work.

Some such projects would be as follows (taking the above list as the example):-

  • Home
    • Maintenance
    • Decoration
    • Car
    • Garden
  • Each person in the household
    • School / Work things that need something done or made for
    • Letters/ Cheques to send
    • Upcoming things to start researching (childrens schools, nurseries etc..)
  • Business / Work
    • Different projects that you are working on – specific clients etc…
    • Different services that you provide and what you need to do to drive each one forward
    • Admin tasks
    • Networking and Marketing tasks
    • Advertising tasks
    • Financial tasks
  • Social
    • Hobbies
    • Club Memberships
    • Charity / Volunteer work
    • Anything to research such as specific holidays, time away, new ideas etc…

STEP THREE – Add in all of your TO DOs, along with estimated time – and sort projects/tasks in terms of priority

Sound a lot doesn’t it?! But believe me that once you have your Master TO DO list sorted, then adding one at a time as you go through your weeks is quick and easy, and will actually save you time in the long run.

Add in each item in priority order, within each project. That way you will know the order in which to do things, and will be able to clearly see if things rely on other things to be done first if they are set out like this.

The other thing to note here is that when you put your TO DOs on the list, try and be as specific as possible – break tasks down into easy to achieve mini tasks – so that you can do that smaller thing in any spare time you have. This will make getting towards your goals a lot easier.

i.e. If you have a task such as “Book family holiday” on the list – then you should add mini tasks like – research locations, determine budget, book accomodation, look at things to do, write what we need to take, book time off work etc….. – each of these things in order are easy to progress, and less intimidating than that of “booking family holiday” – which you may leave until the last minute because of the time you think it will take. Its the same with most things – when you break them down they are more likely to get done. Once you have done each mini task in a project then you can take that whole project off the list – how satisfying!

So – you should have something that looks like this now:-


  • Home
    • Decorate Living room
      • Choose Living room curtains (3 hours)
      • Choose Living room Paint colour (1 hour)
        • Get decorator booked (10 mins)
        • Clear room ready for decorating (2 hours)
      • Buy TV unit (2 hours)
      • Buy Rug (1 hour)
  • Business
      • Finish draft paperwork (1/2 day)
        • Arrange meeting to discuss (5 mins)
    • Finances
      • Do end of year books (1 day)
        • Send through to Accountant when ready (5 mins)
    • Marketing and Advertising
      • Research Google Adwords (2 hours)
      • Look into getting leaflets printed (2 hours)


If you also get into the habit of writing out your tasks and projects in priority order as well, then you always know what needs doing first when you have time

i.e. for the above example – on a day where I am working and I have no scheduled tasks for the day in my diary, then I can simply look at my master TO DO list and see that my first priority is CLIENT ONE – so I will work on my paperwork for that client first, get that done and move onto the next task. I can also see if I can make some quick wins on other items that only need a couple of minutes to complete – thus ticking off as much as possible during this time, and really making progress.

Anything that has a specific due date should be scheduled into your diary so that you ensure it gets done in time – but anything else that isn’t time specific can be added to your TO DO list ready for those times when you have a gap in the day.


What are the benefits of a Master TO DO list?

Having everything in one place will make it so much easier to progress tasks, whatever you are doing.

As a “working for myself from home mum” I have several differents roles, and on certain days I work, other days I look after my daughter, so its handy to know that on a working day I can clearly see what needs to be done, and how urgent it is – so I can prioritise easily – with the knowledge that I will get to the goal if I work through the TO DO list properly.

All scheduled tasks in my diary take precedence of course, and then you can refer back to your TO DO list when you have gaps in your day – ticking them off as you do them.

Having one list, split into every project in each main part of your life, will help you stay in control of what you want to achieve. Whether you have this list electronically or on paper, you can easily see where you are heading – and one huge benefit is that as your priorities change, so too will your TO DO list – and you can update as you go – so you are always heading for the right thing! (some things over time will naturally become obsolete).

I like to keep my master TO DO list in my Home File and update it regularly, ticking things off and adding things as I need to – and it’s a great way of tracking projects so everyone can see what is needed to do next.


why a master TO DO list works bestFollowing the steps below, you should now have a one stop shop to add in your TO DOs, and have them in an organised fashion, so you can easily see what needs doing next in any part of your life when you have some time to fill in your diary.

STEP ONE – Give your life Headings!

STEP TWO – Give each Heading some Project Names

STEP THREE – Add in all of your TO DOs, along with estimated time – and sort projects/tasks in terms of priority

You don’t have to write out a TO DO list every day – as you will have scheduled tasks written in your diary as you go, and can therefore simply schedule your TO DOs from your TO DO list each day into that.

You now have control back over your never ending TO DO list – and it can feel much more manageable – and you will be able to easily see when things become redundant and be able to take them off the list.

What could be better than that!


Do you have a TO DO list that tracks everything in this way? What do you think of a master TO DO list? I’d love to know so please leave a comment below…

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  • Rachael Owens

    This is exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you!

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