Here’s How to Make a “To-Do” List to Actually Achieve Your Professional Goals

Time for a little to-do list audit.  Grab yours and scan the first 5 tasks listed (if you don’t have one, then we have a bigger problem—skip the next two paragraphs and dive right into the most effective tool at your fingertips right this very minute!)

What’s prioritized at the top of your list? Laundry, returning calls or emails, errands you need to run? Chances are your list is a blend of your personal and professional life —what it takes just to stay on top of everything, and not a plan to achieve the longer-term goals you’ve set. 

With the daily responsibilities of adulting—your job/career responsibilities, being a parent, a spouse and trying to have a social life, you’re left with a whole lot of chaos and not a lot of time. It’s easy to be sidetracked from your dreams and the “someday” plans that fight for your attention. That’s why I live & die by my daily to-do list—and make sure it’s working for me beyond simply keeping me afloat. 

When I take the time to plan out my day and week, I’m more productive, focused and proactive. I find more time for personal activities, and accomplish goals that actually move my business forward. In my post, “7 Sanity-Saving Tips for Busy Mompreneurs” the tip that seemed to resonate most with readers was to make your To-Do List actually work for you.  Here are my tips on how to do just that.


Using an app on your smartphone to manage your To Do List makes things extremely easy & convenient, since your phone is with you all the time.  I love the Wunderlist app, and Evernote, for managing my to-do list because I can keep several running lists of things that need to get done, and update them whenever a thought pops into my head, plus:

Set up a daily to-do, weekly list, and long-term goals, and simply move these tasks around as they become a priority

Set up reminders to alert you when tasks or lists must get done. (As I was finishing up this article, I got an alert from Wunderlist telling me that it was time to finish this article.  So “meta!”)

Quickly add an item to your list as you think of it, clip an article to read later, add a grocery item to your running list and share it with your spouse or assistant (collab! delegate!) and sync to your desktop seamlessly.

Use your smartphone’s dictation feature —just press the little microphone and talk. What could be easier?


Now that you know where you’ll make and keep your list, you can set aside 10 – 15 minutes in the evening to create your action list.  In the morning, we tend to grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and tackle never-ending email, right? But at night, when things are quiet and distractions are at a minimum, you can take some time to focus on how to be most productive the following day.  Planning your list at night allows you to get everything out of your head and onto your action list. You’ll sleep better after you’ve cleared your mind and can hit the ground running in the morning.

"At night when things are quiet, take some time to focus on how to be productive the following day."

Tweet this.  


This seems obvious, but as you’re planning your day, be realistic about how long things will actually take, what your absolute “must-do” items for the day are (top of the list and starred!), and how organizing your tasks and errands chronologically and geographically makes the most sense. For example, if you have a lunch meeting that is near a grocery store, plan an extra 15 minutes to run in and save a second time-consuming trip. Make a sub-list of the things you need to get so you can run in and out without forgetting anything. By arranging your day properly, you’ll be amazed at how much more efficient you can be!


High Performance expert Brendon Burchard stresses the importance of organizing your day by considering the Projects, People and Priorities that matter most. Thinking this way is key to really moving your business forward and finally accomplishing your bigger goals.

Projects - List the top 3 – 5 projects you have going right now.  Include 3 simple things you need to do to advance these projects—beyond your daily to-dos.  Chip away at the bigger goals through smaller, actionable tasks you can tackle each day.

People – Ask yourself, “who am I waiting on?” (or, “who is waiting on me?”)  If you need a decision, information, or data to complete your part of the task,  reach out to the people who can give you what you’re waiting on to move forward on your bigger goals. 

Priorities – List the 5-10 urgent things that you absolutely must get accomplished today.  List it, do it, cross it off. If it take less than 5-10 minutes, just do it now. Be Specific - A task like “answer email,” or “organize desk,” is too broad and will remain on your list forever. Instead, “return client email re: press plan” or “file papers on desk for 5 minutes” is more specific and attainable. You may not achieve “in-box zero” or organize your whole office, but even answering a few pressing emails or sorting for 5 minutes a day will add up.


Start your day in the right mindset, then dive in! Wake up earlier, even by just 10 – 15 minutes. The goal is to eventually wake up a whole hour early, by starting with 10 minutes each day until you’re adjusted. Before you jump into work head first, get in the right mindset: Meditate for 10 minutes (Try apps Calm or Headspace for easy, guided meditations), stretch or exercise, take a shower, and drink lots of water. Ask yourself, “What am I most fired-up about today?!” and start from a place of passion and purpose.

Now you know how to use time to your advantage to really rock your goals! Challenge yourself to see how many spare minutes can you find in your day, and make them count! And tell me, do you have any surefire tips to share about how you organize your to-do list?


Jennifer Berson is the President & Founder of Jeneration PR, a Public Relations & Social Media Marketing firm specializing in promoting beauty, baby & lifestyle brands. Prior to founding Jeneration PR in 2005, Jennifer was a civil litigation attorney in Los Angeles.

Jennifer has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Inc., Business Insider, Yahoo!, Entrepreneur Magazine, PR Week, Huffington Post, Fox 11 News, TV Guide Network's "Hollywood 411," PR Web and was profiled on  Jennifer was also selected by as one of the 10 “Mompreneur’s Who Made it Big!”