To-Do Lists for Students: How to Maximize Success & Efficiency

Student holding a pink binder
Student holding a pink binder with headphones

Let me guess, you are overwhelmed. Or maybe being overwhelmed is an understatement for how you’re feeling right now. Being a student is tough. You’re probably trying to balance the expectations from your parents, teachers, and peers, ever-looming deadlines, and the ups and downs of friendships. Even when everyone is rooting for you, it just feels like added pressure.

If this sounds like you, then you are in the right place. It’s time to get that mile-long to-do list out of your overwhelmed head and into a beautifully curated list. 

Getting started requires just four easy steps: 

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Read the following nine tips on how to maximize your success and efficiency as a student
  3. Make a to-do list
  4. Get stuff done!

Tip #1: Plan a Time To Plan

In the busy life of a student, it can feel harder to plan than it is to actually make plans. Planning takes time, but the benefits are worth the time. It is such a burden relief to know exactly what you need to do.

You must schedule a time to plan. Treat the commitments to yourself as much as you keep your commitments to other people. You wouldn’t miss a test, so don’t miss your planning time either.

Figure out what works best for you. Some people prefer to plan once a week while others plan every day. Set an appointment with yourself every day or each week to plan. Hold yourself accountable for this personal appointment. 

If you find yourself struggling to keep the appointment to yourself, tell a friend or family member that you will have to send them a certain amount of money each time you miss your allotted planning time.

Student writing to-do list

Tip #2: Find a To-Do List That Works for you

There are hundreds of to-do list options available it’s all about finding what works best for you. You can go the traditional route with paper and a pencil, or you can invest in a digital option. Try our to-do list app, Todo Cloud! We pride ourselves on having an app that is very easy to learn and incorporate into your daily habits. Students love having recurring task reminders that automatically populate for regular scheduled assignments that you have throughout the week.

Maybe you need your to-do list to be color-coordinated, include location reminders, or simply want one that looks aesthetically pleasing. No matter your criteria, a to-do list option is out there for you.

Tip #3: Make Multiple Lists

Nothing is more daunting than one extremely long to-do list. Break up your to-do lists into several different lists to better organize  your homework assignments, your papers, your studying, your tests, and whatever other tasks you may have on your plate.

Consider breaking up your to-do list into 3 lists:

  1. The “Today” List: All the tasks that you need to complete today
  2. The “Week” List: All the tasks that you need to complete this week
  3. The “Long-Term” List: All the tasks you need to complete sometime in the future

By breaking your tasks down into these three different categories, it will be less daunting for you to complete tasks. Begin by completing everything on the “today” list, then continue to the “week” list, and the “long-term” list. This way you will always complete the most important tasks first.


Tip #4: Keep Your Student To-Do List Short

Keep your “today” to-do list short and simple. A mile-long to-do list isn’t exactly helpful for personal organization, not to mention what a motivation-sapper it will be when you finally get started. Remember to be realistic with yourself when create your to-do list.

As a general rule, keep your daily to-do list at around 10 tasks. Add all additional tasks to your weekly to-do list. This will help you feel more accomplished because there is a foreseeable end to the tasks you need to complete for the day. If you complete all the tasks on your daily to-do list, you can begin to work on your weekly to-do list!

Tip #5: Start Easy

The hardest part of getting stuff done is just getting started! Productivity experts suggest that starting with easier tasks will help you get into the groove of completing tasks and it will make it easier for you to complete the harder tasks later. They call this method “constructive procrastination.” 

Remember that action leads to motivation, not the other way around. Stop looking for motivation from external sources and begin finding it through action. By completing your easier or more exciting tasks first, you are fuelling yourself with the motivation to complete the rest of your tasks for the day.

Tip #6: Break Down your Student Tasks

A task like “work on creative writing assignment” is too vague. It is essential to break down tasks into smaller and easier to accomplish tasks so that you can check off one step at a time. 

Break down the task into micro-steps such as: “read the rubric for creative writing assignment” and “create an outline for the creative writing assignment.” By creating micro-steps it will help you combat procrastination.

Creating and checking off micro-steps will help you feel like you are making progress on the assignment instead of being discouraged by the daunting task at hand. Todo Cloud has a great feature that allows you to create micro-tasks within a task!

Woman doing yoga by a dog

Tip #7: Leave Wiggle Room

Remember that tasks often take much longer than expected. Always leave 15-20 minutes of wiggle room between each task. This will help you remain on schedule when completing your assignments and tasks for the day. If you’re having trouble scheduling your tasks, try the 1-3-5 method. The 1-3-5 method helps you to rank tasks based on difficulty so that you lay out the right amount of work for yourself everyday. 

In addition to wiggle room, make sure that you schedule rest time for yourself. It is easy to feel like you are falling behind your peers if you are not moving forward on your goals every moment of the day. However, a healthy mental and physical wellbeing is one of the important factors in success. Make sure you give yourself adequate time to refresh. Remember that slow and steady always wins the race.

A to-do list is a means to help you maximize your success and efficiency. Try not to beat yourself up if you are unable to complete all of the tasks you were hoping to complete in a day. As long as you continue to progress and put in the effort each day you are on the right track!

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2 Responses

  1. I have a checklist that has 24 items which I have to use regularly. Every time I use it I have to undo each completed check one by one before I can use it. What a pain in the neck. Please add a button that will undo / reset all checklist items.

    1. Hey Peter, thanks for letting us know. If I understand correctly, you check and then uncheck the todo’s each day since you have to redo the list on a daily basis. Is that why you have to undo each completed check? If so, here’s my recommendation: make the tasks recurring. You can set them to recur on a daily basis. That way they automatically generate each day. Hope that helps!

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