At a Glance: Learn how to make the daily to-do list work for you by being realistic, chunking tasks and keeping your list portable.
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Learning to effectively create a daily to-do list may be the single best thing you can do for yourself as a busy student.

If you’re already a natural list maker, the following tips will up your game. If you’ve never made a list in your life, fear not. In just a few minutes, these simple tips will get you on track in no time.

First, prioritize

Make a list of everything you think you need to get done today. Then separate the items into three groups: what needs to be done, what needs to be done well, and what is not worth doing at all. From there, highlight or star what you actually must do and also estimate how much time each item will take. 

Be realistic

A checklist can help you create structure in your day and keep you from wasting time trying to decide what to do next. But be sure to allow time for the unexpected (getting stuck in traffic or hung up on a phone call). 

Chunk work into small tasks

Don’t list tasks that are broad, like “study for class.” Instead, list detailed tasks like “read Chapter 6,” or “email Joe about our group project.” Being specific will keep you focused and make tasks feel more doable.

Take it with you

Bring your list with you throughout the day. That way you can refer back to what needs to be done and add items as new tasks pop up. Better yet, have your list on your phone so it’s never out of reach. Try using list-making apps, such as Remember the Milk ( or Todoist ( 

Cover all your life bases

For some, having separate lists for University of Phoenix schoolwork, career and family life makes sense. But it can be even more efficient to have all your tasks organized in one place so you can take full account of all your to-dos with a single glance.

Play to your strengths

Are you a night owl? Clear your head for a good night’s sleep by crafting tomorrow’s to-do list right before you go to bed. Morning person? Jot down your list while enjoying that first cup of coffee. The key is to be consistent.

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