Organizing Tip: Make a Short-Term To-Do List

Are you feeling overwhelmed with your to-dos?Image of phrase "Organizing Tip: Make a Short-Term To-Do List

Are you trying to keep track of all those little tasks, but are hesitant to add the tasks to your ever-growing master to-do list?

Sometimes the solution is to simply address and take care of things in the present moment.

In this post I offer a few benefits in making a short-term to-do list.

What’s a Short-Term To-Do List?

We often create to-do lists with the intent of completing the items somewhere in the near future or beyond. A short-term list is not a five-year plan, four-month plan or even a week-long plan; it is just a list of things you have to do take care of over the course of an hour or two, be it morning, afternoon or night. Simply put, it’s all about completing tasks in the present moment.

When You Might Need the List

A short-term to-do list certainly isn’t meant for long-term planning, but it is perfect for those times when:

  • You need to get time-sensitive tasks, chores and other administrative items out of your head and onto paper (or a screen)
  • You want to focus on getting things done quickly
  • Tasks are single, one-time or stand-alone items
  • You don’t need to look at or refer to your master to-do list
  • You want instant gratification from crossing-off items from a list!

Make Your Own Short-Term To-Do List

You can either make a digital note in a text editor or other note taking app on your computer, smart phone or tablet, or just use plain old pen and paper. Try making your list the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with a bunch of little items and tasks. Just write tasks down as they come to you, one after another. For example your list might read something like the following:

  • Check dinner hours of new Chinese restaurant
  • Change kitty litter
  • Pack lunch
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarm
  • Iron dress shirt

Work your way through the tasks and know everything will be completed that same day. Not a bad way to get things done and have a sense of accomplishment to boot!

How about you? What’s your list making style? Do you prefer working from a smaller or larger to-do list? Why? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!

Follow Rashelle:
Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.

4 Responses

  1. Janet Barclay

    I use a program where I enter all of my tasks: short term, long term, and “someday maybe” ideas. It allows me to filter them according to priority, so I start my day looking at “Do Now.” Once those are done, I move on to “Do Soon.” When those are done (which doesn’t happen to often) or if they’re all going to take more time than I have at the moment, I’ll move on to “Do Next.” Once a week, I review my list and increase or decrease the priority of certain items as needed.

    • Rashelle

      I too keep a list of short term, long term and future maybe ideas. I think it’s much more manageable looking at smaller lists than one giant list. These lists are easier to maintain, plus the “eyes glazed over” factor when it comes to tasks is significantly reduced. Thanks for your comment!

  2. John Trosko

    Great ideas Rashelle. I seem to be most effective on the short term list myself. Something about opening up a word document and tossing things in there… printing that list, and tackling the list. I can also add things on it in pencil but the foundation is in nice, clean printed in. I like that. Then, I can transfer things over to a calendar if I have dates or appointments that come up while I am tackling the short term to do list. Again, great post.

    John aka OrganizingLA

    • Rashelle

      Thanks John. That really is a clever way of organizing a list, especially as you have the ability to easily transfer over your text notes to a digital calendar or other application. I’m always fascinated at how people construct lists, be it paper, on a computer or phone or a combination of the two. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!