3 Tips for Using List Making for Time Management

Aug 20, 2018 | Personal Development

Time is what we want most, but what we use worst (William Penn). We often feel there aren’t enough hours in the day, but fail to implement changes to positively impact the next 24. Busy days and hurried nights can leave you feeling frazzled and unproductive, so how can you break the cycle? The answer is time management. A financial budget helps you plan how to allocate funds; similarly, time management helps you plan how to budget hours. Time is non-refundable and should be invested with purpose. Author and speaker John Maxwell says, “The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” One of the keys to building success is learning to be disciplined with your calendar. It’s so important to learn how to control your calendar, instead of allowing your calendar to control you. This is easily accomplished through prioritized list making.

In 1918, Charles M. Schwab (a wealthy steel industry tycoon) sat for a meeting with a man who hoped to offer him productivity assistance. The advisor asked for 15 minutes to talk to him about the art of prioritized list making. Schwab obliged and agreed to offer payment only if the advice was worthwhile. Sure enough, 3 months later, the advisor received a check for $25,000 (equivalent to 400,000 modern day dollars). His method of list making was so impactful that he earned nearly half a million dollars for just 15 minutes of instruction. In short, this skill is highly valuable! Even a century ago, people utilized (and unearthed great success with) lists.

Here are a few helpful tips on how to regain control of your time and productivity.

1. Before creating your to-do list, think about what you’re fighting for. In other words, focus on the goals and dreams you want to accomplish.

If you want to build success, you must do it on purpose, with purpose. Every choice made fulfills a specific purpose. Living intentionally calls for making on purpose decisions. Making the decision to have a planning time will help you stay on track and get things done. Having a nightly planning time and creating a daily to-do list is very helpful. But, if you just have a big to-do list without remembering why you are doing those things, you can lose passion and purpose. Consider your end goal. Reflect on your (or your family’s) needs. Each task should directly correlate with one of these vital elements. In addition to creating a to-do list, write down what you are grateful for and what you are fighting for, then attach those things to your to-do list the next day. For example: “Why am I going to make this call? Because I am fighting for success!” Remember the WHY behind the action step and the motivation will be automatic! You will want to accomplish your goals because they are meaningful and part of a larger plan.

2. Prioritize your list

a. Top priority (must do)

b. Important, but not urgent

c. Remaining

Your top priority (a) should be what’s most urgent or time-sensitive. Depending on the day, you may have only 1 urgent matter. If you happen to have more than 1, you’ll need to determine which among them is most vital, and prioritize that task. However, in this scenario, you’ll need to schedule enough time in your day to tackle more than one pressing task. (This is when time-blocking is helpful. Read more about that under the Time Management heading here.) Next, write down your important responsibilities (b). These items are important but don’t need to be addressed immediately. Whichever tasks are left should fill in the remaining spots. At the end of the day, when it is time to draft the following day’s list, transfer any outstanding items to your new one and repeat the steps.

3. Follow these rules:

a. Always bring your list! You can’t accomplish what you can’t see, so keep your list handy.

b. Look at your list every 30 minutes. This step helps eliminate your need to commit tasks to memory. It also holds you accountable and increases your focus.

c. Don’t let the craziness of your day get in the way of what is important for you to get done.

d. Always attach your to-do list action steps to what you are fighting for.

I hope these time management tips help you get on track and bring more purpose and passion to the things you need to get done. Remember, these tips will only work if you apply them, so give it a shot. Plan your work so you can work your plan!


  1. Kurt

    Great information and tips. Thank you.

  2. Maggie

    Thank you both!

  3. Amy

    I’ve been using this method consistently for about two months and it has made a huge difference in my productivity! Thank you!

  4. Greg Rellaford

    This is an awesome reminder of how to stay on track and be as effective as possible!

  5. Joel & Kristen

    Awesome post! It is so common to just let life happen to us, but taking control of our time is so important and really separates the successful from the average. I am currently working to make these things habits! Thank you!

  6. Brice

    Thank you for the tips! Everyone can benefit from this information! – Brice

  7. Ann Parker

    These Tips have been so helpful! Thank you soooooo much!!

  8. Linda

    Love these tips. Time-tested. Thank you for the reminder!

  9. Dan lawrenz

    Love the information

  10. Joel

    Great content! Very useful!

  11. Dan Tennies

    These tips have definitely been impactful in my own personal life as I have applied them faithfully. So much great information here that can really help someone move forward in life.

  12. Ryan and Alaine Jackson

    LOVE ME SOME LISTS! This is such a great post and super helpful!!! We love what you wrote here, “Time is non-refundable and should be invested with purpose.”

  13. Jenny Vesely

    Priceless info. I know when I do implement these strategies I am productive. When I don’t, I’m not. Success comes in daily do it…even if it isn’t perfect. Thanks for keeping it Simple David and Jaimee!


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