Organisation Tip: How to create a master list

The one thing we all have is lots to do. Life is so busy and there’s always a list of things that need to be done. There’s the house maintenance list, the list of things for school, the list of bills to pay. Also, the list of chores to complete, and the list of emails to respond to. Maybe there’s a post-it note in the kitchen, a sticky note on your desktop, a digital list in your phone and some scribbles in your planner. So, how do you keep all your to-do lists managed? With a master list.

What’s a master list?

Introducing the Master List. Rather that having multiple to-do lists scattered around the place, put all your items onto on list. This big list can hold all your important tasks, as well as future dreaming tasks, wish list tasks – the lot!


So maybe you don’t like the idea of one giant list. You can still use a variation on the master list.

Variation 1 – use a master list for all future non-time sensitive tasks. That is, tasks that can occur at any time. Cross them off as you complete them. Use a daily to-do list for all tasks that are time sensitive.

Variation 2 – Use a master list for all to-do tasks. Transfer the top three (or ten) tasks to a daily list to be completed. This reduces the amount of cognitive overload by having a giant task, and allows for time blocking for the most important tasks that day.

How to do make your own master list?

A master list needs to be somewhere where it can’t be lost. A scrap of paper won’t cut it.

For work, I have a spiral note book that holds my master list. I transfer items from it into my email calendar to create daily schedules. And my spiral note book gets carried around everywhere so I can take notes, scribble ideas, record observations, and add to the list.

For home, my list is in my planner. Using a grid page at the front or in the commonplace notes section, the master list can be easily found with bookmark ribbon or page-edge sticker.

The list also doesn’t need to be in any order – just put everything down. This saves space, as you’re not using a separate piece of paper for each category of list. It’s one place for all of the mental lists in your brain, so you always know where to look for your to-do tasks.

This list might contain your list of home maintenance chores, a shopping wish list, phone calls to make. Also, your exercise to-do, social catch-up to-dos, self-care and hobby to-dos. It’s one place that consolidates all the lists.

How do you use a master list?

It will be a big list. That’s the point – all the to-do items are consolidated in one place. Use coloured highlighters to group tasks into similar categories to help organise a list. Colours could indicate the time-sensitivity (do now, do within a week, future tasks), or different types of tasks (finances, kids, house & garden, wish list, work etc).

What’s satisfying is crossing off items on the list. The sense of productivity from completing items is so mood-boosting!

What’s the benefit?

A master list:

  • helps organisation because all the tasks you have to do are in one place and won’t get forgotten on a scrap of paper, or forgotten with time passing.
  • improves productivity because you can easily prioritise the most important tasks from your giant list and focus on them.
  • can reduce mental load by having a place to dump everything from your brain in one spot.

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