Your Ultimate To-Do List Template

Your Ultimate To-Do List Template

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It doesn’t care if you are a Fortune 100 CEO, a solopreneur, or a business development director. It’s lying in wait, lurking, and it’s growing.

You can’t run from this menace and there’s nowhere to hide from… your to-do list! The importance of a solid to do list template can't be understated, and separates wishes from attainable goals.

I was working with a client recently and they shared that their to-do list was broken into eight sections and had 32 different and equally pressing items.

My response to that was “that sounds exhausting”.

Based on our conversation I could tell that it was exhausting him. Most of us have to-do lists but for too many of us, they are out of control and more a part of the problem than part of the solution. Let’s get that to-do list under control.

Keep one to-do list

I was conducting a workshop for an organization and as I was taking questions from the audience someone shared that they had lists for their lists.

That’s right their lists had gotten together and made little lists. Lists procreating made me just a bit nervous and I wasn’t alone. A nervous chuckle spread throughout the room.

Maintaining one main to-do list is crucial for personal and professional productivity. It helps consolidate tasks, responsibilities, and commitments, and provides a clear overview of priorities.

By avoiding scattered information and potential oversights, individuals can assess task interdependencies, identify conflicts, and allocate resources more effectively. A consolidated list enables informed decision-making, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.

Keep one master list. And your job is to only put on this list those things that are truly important.


I was speaking for a different organization and executive shared that earlier in her career whenever her boss gave her an assignment she assumed it was urgent. This led to a lot of unnecessary stress.

When she finally got up the nerve to talk to her boss about her workload, her boss made it very clear that everything wasn’t a top priority. If everything is a top priority, nothing is.

You can’t make headway on your to-do list until you identify the things that need to get done first.

Before diving into your to-do list, it's important to have a conversation with your boss to identify the tasks that hold top priority. By discussing with your superior, you can gain clarity on their expectations, strategic objectives, and immediate needs.

This conversation helps you align your efforts with the overall goals of the organization and ensures that you're focusing on the most crucial tasks.

Ask for help

It's important to realize that asking for assistance doesn't make us incapable—it simply means we've got a lot on our plate at the moment.

Understanding the strength in seeking help is a valuable mindset that reminds us we don't have to do everything alone.

By reaching out to a coworker and sharing our workload, we tap into the power of teamwork and collaboration. This shows our dedication to delivering quality work and ensures that important tasks don't suffer due to overwhelm.

Embracing the idea that asking for help is an opportunity for growth and teamwork opens doors to knowledge, expertise, and shared achievements.

It's also worth remembering that helping others is a two-way street, so when we ask for support, we should be ready to lend a hand when our coworker needs it in the future.

Asking for help with our to-do list doesn't make us incapable - It makes us human.

Top three

Once you have prioritized your list by considering urgency, deadlines, and impact, it's beneficial to revisit it and select the three tasks that you absolutely want to accomplish today, no matter what. This approach helps in reducing the overwhelming feeling that can come from a long list.

By narrowing down your focus to these top three tasks, you can allocate your time and resources more effectively, ensuring that you make significant progress on the most important activities. (If time management is something you struggle with, check out our blog post on it here!)

This focused approach enables you to tackle the essential tasks with determination and a sense of accomplishment, bringing you closer to your overall goals while maintaining a manageable workload.

Just (don’t) do it

Take a good, thorough look at your list and pay special attention to those tasks that have been rolling over for what feels like ages. Here's a thought: if nobody has bothered to ask about these tasks, perhaps they aren't as crucial as you initially thought. Give yourself some mental breathing space and simply cross them off your list.

It's liberating! If someone happens to inquire about them later on, don't sweat it - you can always add them back. By taking this approach, you're freeing yourself from the weight of unnecessary commitments and making room for what truly matters.

Focus on tasks that have a tangible impact and bring you closer to your goals, and let go of the ones that are just taking up mental space. Your mind will thank you for it!


When a supervisor or client wants to add something to your already full to-do list, it's important to engage in a constructive negotiation rather than simply nodding and accepting.

Take a moment to ask them about their timeline and when they specifically need it. Inquire about where it falls on their priority list to gain a better understanding of its urgency. Then, share when you realistically can deliver the task and ask if that timeframe aligns with their expectations.

By having this open conversation, you establish clear expectations and find a mutually agreeable solution. It's essential to advocate for yourself and ensure that you can manage the workload effectively without compromising on quality or existing commitments.

Remember, communication is key in finding a balance that works for both parties involved.

Your Ultimate To-Do List Template

When dealing with your supervisor you need to ask one more question and phrase it like this: “I am currently working on project A, project B, and project C, what would you like me to stop doing so that I can do this? Or can this wait until I get some breathing room in X weeks?”

It sounds crazy, I know, but it works. This question will enable you to understand where this falls in their priorities, save you from becoming overwhelmed, and keep you from saying yes when you should’ve said no.

What tricks do you use to get/keep your to-do list under control?  I am always looking for great ideas.

About the author 

Dr. David Arrington

David a husband, father and the principal of Arrington Coaching. He and his team work with leaders, teams, organizations, and entrepreneurs. He regularly speaks and writes on leadership development, team alignment, and peak performance.

  • This is – finally – some useful advice how to handle to do lists. Especially #4. Actually, I struggle a lot with crossing tasks from my list, but your article encourages me to do so. 🙂

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