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The Magic of To-Do Lists (Why Lists are AMAZING and How to Use Them to WIN)

blog post cover calendar with flowers pink and blue

Deigan Marie is a dear friend of mine, a fellow writer, and one of my favorite bloggers. When she did a post about to-do lists and how to use them effectively, I found it so helpful and encouraging. And being someone who is rather obsessed with planning (outlines, calendars, checklists, etc.), I knew I had to reblog this for all of you! Whether you're a list person or planning of any kind stresses you out, I know you will love hearing from Deigan.

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If you know me, then you know my obsession with lists. I have TONS of them. Lists of favorite books, lists of music, lists of things to do, lists, lists, lists. But I'm also pretty alone in this magical love of to-do lists. Why is that? Because sometimes, when people see what they need to do written out, it can be pretty overwhelming and terrifying. Which . . . yeah, makes sense, right? I'm sure you've heard horror stories about lists a mile long, always adding to it, never reaching the end . . . I get it. But want to know a secret? I used to H.A.T.E. lists. Chore boards, grocery lists, to-do's . . . they all terrified the life outta me. 😂 But then something happened. I became a writer. And lists became my best friend. I can't imagine a day without them now! But, you may be asking, how do I use to-do lists to my advantage? How do I not be scared out of my wits to see all those checkboxes? Well, my friend, that's why I'm here.

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1 | THE SCIENCE I am by nooooo means I scientist. I'm barely scraping by with biology. 😂 But I do know one thing: there is something so satisfying about marking something off a to-do list. Your brain sees that checkmark or the highlighter and congratulates itself because it means it did something. That's why, when I write out my lists, I write out every. Single. Stinking. Thing. I need to do. Don't believe me? Here's a list I found a while ago in my planner.

to do:

♥ wake up ♥ read bible ♥ make bed ♥ go to bed ♥ make tea ♥ get dressed ♥ wash hair ♥ drink water Yes, half those things I do every day anyway (I mean, who doesn't wake up or drink tea?), but I put them on there anyway so my OCD brain could have the pleasure of crossing them off. 2 | ENSURES SUCCESS I have a limited amount of time on the computer each day. Which is a great thing because it gets me outside and gives me plenty of time away from devices. But it is also really hard to get everything done, especially if you're like me and just sit down at the computer and start pulling up random tabs you think you might need . . . and then the second you power down the computer, you think, "I knew I was forgetting something!" To-do lists ensure you don't forget anything and give you a concrete schedule for the day ahead. My mom always says you should set yourself up for success. Writing out what you need to do helps with that. 3 | GIVES YOU ACCOUNTABILITY This goes hand in hand with what I said above. To-do lists give you accountability for your commitments and ensure you don't forget something important. Every morning after my bible time, I write out a comprehensive list of what needs to be done that day, and then I tackle it.

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There are soooo many ways you can use a to-do list, both in life and writing. Here are some of the ways I use them . . .

1 | PLOTTING I have a set-aside notebook for each story I write. In it, I write out a bullet-point list of things I want to happen in my story. Even if you're a discovery writer, I'd still recommend you do this as it gives you a concrete outlet for your creativity and ensures you don't accidentally miss a scene that needs to happen (guilty 🙈). 2 | RESEARCH One of my novel ideas that I have revolves around a traveling circus. Since I have never gone to a circus or acted in one, I needed to research it. I have a list of things to look into, ranging from security gear to outfits to acts to the tent layout. It's especially handy when you're in the middle of writing and are like, "Oh darn, I need to research this . . ." You can just write it down and come back to it later! 3 | PUBLISHING There's a story I'm hoping to publish sometime, and in that notebook, I have a list of things I need to look into/do before I can publish it. Things like cover design and fix blurb and send to beta-readers. I honestly think I might up and die without these. 😅 4 | EDITING If you know anything about editing, you probably know that there are several stages: developmental editing, copy editing, content, line, proofreading, and the list goes on. When I start editing a new story, I write down everything that needs to be done, plus smaller steps beneath those large steps to do in those big steps . . . you get the point. Editing checklists ensure you don't forget something major and have to go back and re-do it.

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1 | MAKE THEM AESTHETIC If you've been hanging around this blogging even for a little bit, then you know I'm a sucker for aesthetics. I make aesthetic boards for writing, I take (or try to take) aesthetic photos, and I make my lists aesthetically pleasing. How do I do this? Good question. First off, I . . .


There is something just so . . . aesthetic (😂) about using a favorite pen. Maybe it's the smooth way it writes. Maybe it's the feel of it rolling over your fingertips. Maybe it's the ink color. Maybe it's all of the above. Whatever the reason, I always write my lists with a pen I love using. It's the same idea as writing your story with a font you love.


(Because I have no clue what they are called XD) Instead of just listing everything out in a single column with a dash ( - ) line in front . . . do something prettier. When I'm writing them out, I will use small dots or hearts. When I'm typing them, I will use . . .

🌻 pretty emojis

_ underscores

♥ hearts

* asterisk ~ swirl-thingy (XD) --> arrows


Yes, I do this. Yes, it takes a long time . . . but it's SO. COOL!!! There's something sooooo pretty about the small font that takes up half a line instead of a full line. I totally get it if that is not the thing for you (really--I do), but it is something I love doing.

2 | DON'T MAKE THEM TOO LONG Yes, I know I said adding a lot of small, minuscule tasks to make your brain happy is a good idea, but . . . it can also overwhelm your brain into thinking there's more to do than there actually is. Combine two things that you can knock out at the same time. Have multiple lists (I do this all the time; one list for online things I need to do, offline things I need to do, small things that aren't that important, etc.). 3 | START SMALL This is basically me repeating what I said above, but seriously. Start. Super. Small. Do you remember that saying about eating an elephant? You take it one bite at a time. Start with a short, three-item list that is your top three frogs (if you know, you know XD). Once you've crossed off everything on that list . . . do it again. And again. And again. Do it until you feel comfortable adding more items. I know it sounds like I'm suggesting you take baby steps, but that's because I am. Especially if you loathe lists and would rather do something like scrubbing a bathroom with a toothbrush or walk uphill in sweltering weather. Start small, then work your way up. You got this. I believe in you.

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What was your favorite tip? Do you like lists? What are your favorite ways to use lists? I'd love to know! <3

Cheers! Deigan Marie

Reposted from Deigan Marie


Deigan Marie
Deigan Marie
Sep 05, 2023

Thank you SO much for reposting this, girl! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Ava Hope
Ava Hope
Sep 06, 2023
Replying to

Of course! Thank you for writing it <33


Saraina Whitney
Saraina Whitney
Sep 01, 2023

I love the tip to make it aesthetic! That's what I need in order for to-do lists to be fun! 😍

Ava Hope
Ava Hope
Sep 04, 2023
Replying to

Yess, I agree!! Thank you for reading, Saraina❤️

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