How do you keep yourself organised at work? Do you live in a world full of random post-it notes, scribbled ideas on scraps of paper and promises you know you’ve made but can’t quite remember what they were?

If that’s the case, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of being rather unproductive – no matter how hard you try to stay ahead of the game.

Thankfully, there’s an answer, and it lies in the humble to-do list. And this isn’t a new piece of technology or a bandwagon upon which everyone appears to be momentarily jumping before falling off – to-do lists have been around for a very long time and they’re incredibly effective.

man with to-do list.

The best news is that the most effective to-do lists rely on nothing more than three best practices:

1. They’re actionable

You may have flirted with to-do lists before, but ended up abandoning them entirely. And if that’s the case, it’s probably because you were giving yourself tasks that simply couldn’t be actioned.

This might sound daft, but it’s a common trap to fall into. You have an idea – a spark of genius – and so you note it down on your to-do list for tomorrow. Only, when tomorrow comes, you realise you have no idea how to tackle the task you’ve set yourself.

By instead creating actionable to-do lists, you’ll chip away progressively at much bigger goals.

Before you add an item to your to-do list, make sure it’s something you know you can do, and break it down into smaller to-dos if it’s too big a task to take on at once.

2. They’re accessible

A to-do list isn’t much use if you decide to work in a coffee shop for the morning and don’t have it with you. Thankfully, we live in a world where to-do lists can be carried everywhere, either physically or digitally.

Your to-do list of choice might be of the traditional notebook-and-pen variety, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that analogue style of productivity, but if you fancy putting your smartphone, tablet and laptop to good use, there’s a raft of apps that work across platforms to ensure your digital to-do list is always in your pocket or on your desk.

3. They’re realistic

We’ve all been guilty of setting ourselves too much work to do, and this is a classic problem with to-do lists.

You’re not superhuman and you can only achieve so much in a day. Once again, if you approach your to-do list by adding as much stuff to it as possible, it will become something you hate, rather than love looking at.

Be realistic with your to-do list. Before you add an item, take a look at what’s already there for the day in question and ask yourself honestly if you can cope with that addition. If you can’t – reschedule.

To-do lists should be living, breathing entities, too, therefore start each day (or evening) by reviewing you upcoming items and adjusting the list if you feel you’re taking on too much.

Wrapping up

To-do list management is pleasingly simple if you follow the above best practices. And if you do that, you’ll be more productive than you ever thought possible.