How to make a manageable to-do-list


Are you fed up writing to-do-lists and lists of goals?

The self-help industry constantly stresses the importance of writing down our goals. They warn us that if we don’t write down our goals we will never achieve them. 

Throughout my life I have spent considerable time writing down long lists of goals and to do lists – sometimes with categories and sub-categories. I have many notebooks – far too many.

cartoon of a girl lifting books illustrating an article on how to make a manageable to-do-listI am beginning to wish I could get back the time I spent writing down these goals. How many hours?

Do they add up to days, weeks, or months? I have a feeling I might have achieved more if I had just got on with it. My to-do-list is now a to-do-file.


Somewhere along the line we have become slaves to the to-do-list. What’s wrong with sitting still?

Gut instinct can provide us with the best ideas and yet how do we find time to listen to our gut – when we’re too busy writing to-do-lists?

Maybe the emphasis is on writing lists and goals because if we don’t, we can’t control the deluge of  ‘stuff we have to do.’

I used to have building a website very high on my to-do-list for years, five to be exact. I thought about it a lot, yet never seemed to get round to it.

Then last year I got fed up guiltily carrying this goal forward and so I deleted it. I felt relieved.

What happened then? Well, I went on holiday, rested, swam, walked, read books and best of all I rested.

Rest is underestimated. Sometimes that’s just what you need.

The same night I got back I saw an advert in a local paper for a website building course. The date of application was the previous week. I’d missed it.

Even so, I just knew I had to apply. I rang the next day and wasn’t too late after all.

Now here I am building my own website, link-by-link, page-by-page. If you are interested in learning more about this I write about my experiences building my own website here.

As a writer I am becoming more and more aware that I need to unplug, switch off and just write.

I have found that some of my favourite achievements – a short film, a prize-winning story –  I wrote simply because I couldn’t sleep.

A book I wrote to pass time on a boring daily bus journey was never on my to-do list. I just did it because I wanted to.

That book was Piggy Monk Square and with this book I achieved my dream. It was published, shortlisted for a writing award, optioned for film and adapted for radio.


I may sound like a hypocrite here but I do actually still think we need to write a list but it should be short and ruthlessly edited.

What I do now is just write a few things in my diary. Three is my average and if I tick them off, then that’s great.

If not I write in the things I actually did instead and tick those instead. I feel better when my to-list is manageable and feeling better helps me write better.

Life doesn’t always happen the way it happens in the lists. Our goals can and should change as we do.

If there have been items on the list for over a month that you have not started, then maybe you should cross them out and move on.

You might find this gives you a lot more time. Many of us are so busy we need as much time as we can get. Making time can be easy once you put your mind to it. You can read how I make managing time easier here.

Now that you’ve hopefully figured out how to make some extra time for writing I suggest you use the free time wisely and write.

If you don’t know where to begin, start with some writing exercises – you’ll be glad you did.

Don’t let the goals you think you SHOULD achieve – stop you achieving the ones you can.

Good luck with your writing.


P.S.  All the information and help on this site is free of charge for you. All I ask is that you ‘like’ or ‘share’ this page.

If you have any questions or comments please use the comments box below and I will be happy to help.

beautiful sunset bay illustrating an article on how to make a manageable to-do-list




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