Because we all lead busy lives, remembering all the things we need to do can be difficult.

While we can let some tasks slip with minimal impact ("Forgot to take out the trash, will do it later."), forgetting others can have major consequences (think about what would happen if you forgot to pay your mortgage). To stay on top of all the things we need to do, many of us make a to-do list. But while writing down tasks is a good start, a list alone is not enough. 

"To-do lists are a menace, unless you know how to organize and tackle them," says leadership expert Val Wright, of Val Wright Consulting. Wright advises that organizing a to-do list is the first step in managing your time effectively. While we all have good intentions as we sit down and create our to-do lists, once they're in front of us, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and lose motivation to actually get the projects done. So in the end our productivity declines.

Categorize Your To-Do List

"Could do, must do, don't want to but need to, are the categories you must divide your to-do list into," says Wright.

Here's a closer look at how to divide your to-do list into these three categories each day:

Could do—These tasks are the biggest time sucks and where you can get easily distracted. They are not essential, could be done another time, or you could get them done another way.

Must do—These fall into the time-sensitive category. They are tasks that only you could perform and until you do them, you aren't able to complete other priorities.

Don't want to, but need to—These tasks cause us the biggest stress, as we tend to avoid doing these until the last minute, or procrastinate our way out of doing them. Wright recommends that you do these tasks first thing in the morning in order to get them out of the way.

Wright says to tackle this list in reverse order, and schedule time to achieve your tasks. While categorizing your tasks may seem like adding another step into an already busy schedule, you may just shock yourself with how productive you can become.

Val Wright reviewed this article.



Val Wright, leadership expert,