How to Write a Clearly Defined To Do List

If you’re like me, you find yourself writing many to do lists for home, work, blogging, etc. And more of the time than not, the planning is easier to do than the execution itself.

I believe that one of the reasons to do lists never get done are because they are not specific enough, whether it is for personal or business purposes (like using social networks for social CRM). Let’s look at three items on my to do list for social media and networking.

  • Update Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn daily
  • Participate on forums
  • Connect with new people on social media networks

Looks pretty standard, right? Well, on a busy day, it’s easy to bypass the goals you have set for yourself, or put minimal effort into each of the goals, thinking you have succeeded in accomplishing them. Let’s look at some ways to define each to do item more effectively using the principle of taking small steps to accomplish goals.

Define What

Updating three social networks daily sounds like an easy task. But what if your goal is to update these sites a certain number of times in specific ways, but after a busy week, you realize you may have updated each site with a status update daily, but forgotten to accept friend request or respond to messages. So for this to do list item, I will define what specific updates I would like to do daily.

  1. Twitter daily actions

    • Check and respond to direct messages
    • Check and respond to Mentions
    • Send three relevant status updates daily
  2. Facebook daily actions
    • Check and respond to inbox messages
    • Update business pages
    • Happy Birthday greetings
    • Check and respond to group / page discussions
    • Send three relevant status updates
  3. LinkedIn daily actions
    • Respond to invites to connect
    • Respond to inbox messages
    • Send three relevant status updates
    • Answer two questions in LinkedIn Answers

Now, with a list of what to do on each network, I will not forget exactly what I want to keep up with on a daily basis.

Define Where

Forum participation can become a huge task in and of itself if you belong to many different forums like I do. I can write down that I want to make sure that I am active on several forums on a daily basis, but then I get stuck juggling which one is more of a priority than another. In my case, because I belong to a few paid membership sites, it makes sense that those should be my most active, as there is no point in paying for something that I don’t take full advantage of. So for this to do item, I will define where I want to be active as follows.

  1. Paid membership forums – read and respond to five threads daily
  2. Free membership forums for website traffic – read and respond to three threads daily
  3. Free dofollow forums for link building – read and respond to one thread daily

By listing out where I want to participate, and at what volume, it will make easier to make sure that I am active on the most important forums on a daily basis.

Define How

Seeking out new people to connect with on social networks is something I would like to do more often, but it usually gets regulated to being a once a week task. Belonging to so many networks with different options on finding friends, it’s hard to remember exactly how I want to check to find new connections. So for this to do list item, I will define how I want to find new people to network with.

  1. Twitter followers

    • Check email address book
    • Follow Retweeters
  2. Facebook friends
    • Check email address book
    • See my suggestions
  3. Facebook fans for business pages
    • Suggest pages to new friends that are applicable
  4. LinkedIn connections
    • Check email address book

Now, with a list of how to do each item, I will be able to remember to go through each process to find the most relevant new connections on each network.

My Manageable To Do List

So what makes my to do list more manageable? I have defined what I want to do on specific networks with a clear definition of how, making each item on my to do list more likely to get done. How do you make your to do list more accomplishable?

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  1. says

    I really need to get myself a to do list, but I keep forgetting to do one 😆 seriously though this is a list that I could use, maybe I should slap it on a post it note on my monitor, so I can remember to do half the things I’ve forgot to do in the first place 😉
    .-= New from Karen @ Blazing Minds Who’s the Band – Brad Reason =-.

  2. says

    I purchased a white-board recently and that makes a lot of difference. I have a daily and weekly plan but it is only a summary.

    So I would write:

    * Update Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn daily
    * Participate on forums
    * Connect with new people on social media networks

    Because there are certain things I do each and everyday – I don’t need to write down the detail – just a little reminder at a high level.

    .-= New from andrew @ Blogging Guide Guest Blogging – Why don’t you do it? =-.

  3. says

    I think you hit the nail on the head. If you want to really get things done, you have to be specific and outline the necessary steps to get to your destination. Mapquest can be annoying at times with all the little 1/2 mile steps and ramps but if those steps weren’t included, it would be easy for many to get lost. The same is true with a to-do list.
    .-= New from Kidgas Maddie (and Ladybird) Lay Down the Gauntlet =-.

  4. says

    I ALWAYS use to do lists myself. I came across ToodleDo, and have found that relatively useful since it syncs well with the iPhone as well. For those that need their to-do list, I highly suggest that. I have a FireFox tab open at all times on it. You can also set recurring to do events, for those daily or weekly tasks.
    .-= New from Justin@Web Marketing Helpful Marketing Discussion and Resources 2010-02-28 =-.

  5. says

    When it comes to to-do list, I believe we can use the same approach to goals- “SMART”. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. I could still remember those days which my to-do list get longer and longer. Seeing it getting longer increases the stress in me and I feel guilty for not doing what I’ve promised to myself. These no longer happened since the day I make it specific. You are right about it. Without a measurable result, time and how we are going to do it, they are just wish-list instead of to-do list. Thanks for sharing all the wonderful tips here :)

  6. Emily says

    Another nice perk of a detailed to-do list is that you feel more productive since it is easier to complete a task, and productivity helps breed productivity.

  7. says

    My husband always claims I am the queen of “to do list” but I believe that they definitely help me out a lot both for work and for my personal life. I have a calendar planner that has general stuff and due dates on it and then I make a new to do list every night before I go to bed for the next day. It also keeps me motivated to work the next day as well.
    .-= New from Tiffany @ Passive Income Opportunities Another Useful Website for Finding Hot Niches to Create Online Passive Income =-.

  8. says

    Ahh, this is pur gold for me, i love it. I write out a daily to-do list on a white board, then erase as i go through it. My list looks a lot like yours except with more linkbuilding tasks. I’m definitely going to give the bullets a try because i do tend to under-accomplish some tasks when i’m feeling lazy or frustrated.
    .-= New from Josiah@Tumblr Themes Photo Gallery =-.

  9. says

    i never organized my to do list the way your define it here. usually I cram in a day and my updates would come from all over the place. assigning them specific routine is I think imperative for bloggers with quite a lot of social media connections.

    thanks for this article.
    .-= New from dimaks@pacquiao-clottey-live Wiping out Clottey on March 13 =-.

  10. says

    I did it. After I published How to Become a Better Blogger 8: Goal-Setting on December 13, 2009, I began to draw back from social networking. I pruned “followers” and will be doing more pruning. I have a social media time management strategy timeline in place once again, and I’m sticking to it.

    I feel 100 times better now. I’m so grateful you were supportive when we discussed this during the height of winter. I’m also grateful for all the excellent posts you write too, like this one.

    Yahoo! It’s spring and I’m making the time to enjoy it!

    Thank you.

    P.S. I like using both rememberthemilk and toodeldo. They are great organizational and time management tools.
    .-= New from timethief OMG! My Pictures Are Gone! =-.

  11. says

    Very good point on making tasks specific. Each item needs to be “actionable.” Vague items are easy to ignore and hard to get completed. Each ToDo should have a clearly defined path for completion.

    Another step is to attach an estimated “time to complete” to each item. This can be a good reality check to see if you actually have the time to get what you want done.
    .-= New from Mike @ Computer Tips Belarc Advisor – Excellent PC Maintenance Utility =-.

  12. says

    A great run down of getting things organised. When it comes to social media I think you also have to establish the effectiveness of participating in a particular forum. I see many new bloggers particpating for the sake of it not really adding any benefit to discussions but believing just adding anything is worthwhile, it isn’t.

    I drew a short list of the most effective blogs and forums I participate in and focus my efforts on these areas. Social Media is a serious time drain so you have to make sure you’re making effective use of it.
    .-= New from search engine optimisation Building Links To Links?!? – Link Boosting! =-.

  13. says

    hi Kristi,
    Wow… just reading some of the items on your to-do list makes me tired.
    Well, you inspired me to start a “to do list”…

    ITEM ONE) Make a “to do” list… tomorrow.

    :) Sorry, couldn’t resist. I admire people that overcome procrastination.

    Steve, the procrastinating trade show guru
    .-= New from trade show guru Trade Show Outboarding =-.

  14. says

    I’m still doing it the old way with pencil and paper. However, it works and since I’ve started a daily to-do list I get “almost” everything done. You are getting a bit into more detail which I will try. Soon we will need a to-do list for the to-do list. mmm :)
    .-= New from Cichlid Atlantis Tropical Fish =-.

  15. says

    You have made some really good points on how to actually get the items on your list accomplished. I found for years that I actually felt so much better organized when i wrote out the list that i really didn’t spend the necessary time in getting them done. Several years ago a friend showed me a list that he uses to get things done. He simply takes the five ( i cut it down to three) most important things on his list and each day before doing anything else he works on accomplishing them. This strategy has really helped me although it was hard for me to get in the habit of actually doing it. You have taken it one step further and focused on making the task really clear so your chances of success are greatly increased. Great post

  16. says

    I maintain a to-do list for just about everything in my life. Some people call me over-compulsive for it. But that way you don’t miss out on anything. Making mental notes is never enough as you’re bound to forget some of the things in due course. But a ‘hard copy’ of things to do will always be there to remind you.

    Till then,


  17. says

    Wow–you spend a lot of time on social media and networking. I guess I would wonder if the return on your investment of time is really worth it. I am more into automation without alienation, which can be achieved through direct response. You can easily work this into your social media profiles, if you know what you are doing.

  18. says

    I use Remember the Milk for my task lists. What I am going to do is incorporate your to do list and put that on a repeating daily basis. Incorporate some Digg and Stumbleupon activity in addition to yours, and I believe I will have a nice daily strategy :) Why reinvent the wheel, when Kikolani has done it for you?! :)
    .-= New from Steve@Personal Success Factors What Can You Learn From This Cinderella Story? =-.

  19. says

    Keeping up with social networks is fun, but time-consuming. It’s important! Plus, it’s a fantastic way to meet new bloggers.

    I love your break-down of tasks. There are so many things to do – things that move us forward, but where to start and how to choose the best place to focus our efforts is critical. Laying things out in a list helps to sort through what needs to be done first and what can wait until later.

    I’ve started dividing my work into projects with daily tasks that might change each day and maintenance work – work that needs to happen on a daily or regular basis. I’m still behind with too much to do, but it helps keep my head from exploding 😀
    .-= New from Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny 35 Funny Reasons to Love and Hate Facebook =-.

  20. says

    Absolutely fantastic, thank you for sharing this.

    I agree, the problem many people make is not being specific with their To-Do lists. Another thing people omit is setting a time table for each task.

    When you write down a generic task without a time limit, you’re never going to get it done.

    However, if you break your tasks down (shown greatly in this post) and set a time table, you can accurately gauge your involvement and move onto the next without wasting time. That’s productivity!
    .-= New from Murlu 3 Easy Ways To Making More Sales (And How To Do Each) =-.

  21. says

    The issue with my To Do Lists is that they seem to grow over the course of the day. Lets say I write an article and feel in the writing mood. Then I start writing more articles instead of doing what is on my To Do list.

    I am using my To Do list to set the course so I have a direction. I more of then not don’t stick to it.

    As always procrastination is the biggest foe of the bloggers success.
    .-= New from Alex@Zahnbleaching blend-a-med Whitestrips 56 Streifen im Test =-.

  22. says

    Very true. For blogging, every body needs to define his targets atleast for a week. Apart from writing a quality content, one needs to concentrate on blog marketing and socializing. And FACEBOOK and TWITTER are the monster for that.My advise is to create a fan page for website, it really increase traffic. Personally, I reserves weekends just for backlinks.
    Farhan just posted SAMAA TV Channel

  23. says

    I’ve got to tell you, Kristi, when I read your post title I thought “To-do list, really? What can I possibly learn about that?”

    Turned out, quite a bit. This post was exactly what I needed – my to-do list is a list of wishful thinking rather than a real manageable worksheet. Love your points on it and definitely need to rework mine.

    Ana Hoffman
    Ana just posted How To Use Google To Help You Convince Your List To Buy From You

  24. says

    I tend to do most of my online activity in spurts. Link building for an hour or 2 a couple days a week, facebook whenever I can squeeze it in, etc. It sounds like you’ve got your priorities all lined up. Would you say that the list of activities you’ve shared should be about the same for any business that has an online presence? Or is this list more applicable to people who have a career in internet marketing?
    TJ McDowell just posted Redesigned Photography Blog – A Service Trade

  25. says

    I try very hard to make sure I keep my blogging and social media related tasks handy, often using Hootsuite or Twaiter to schedule recurring tweets to Twitter save me a ton of time. The integration of Hootsuite and Ping.FM also save time as I can broadcast to all my social networks at once (Tweetdeck does this too).

    For my to do list and social media my Twitter poetry game is really the only “task” besides replying to people, I also make sure I try to promote at least 5 other bloggers articles every day either via retweets or visiting other sites and promoting the articles that I have read as a common courtesy.
    Justin Germino just posted The Expendables review