As a productivity and time-management expert, you’d think I’d be a huge fan of the to-do list — but I’m not. However, I do have a secret productivity weapon and that’s my Master List.

Today, I am going to share with you my 3-steps to creating a to-do list that really works.

Step 1: Your Master List

Here’s the thing — we aren’t starting with a to-do list. We are starting with a Master List.

Now your Master List is an ongoing list where you put all your to-dos. Think of it as a place to get everything out of your brain and into one place so you don’t have to worry about what you’re forgetting or what needs to get done.

What’s cool about the Master List is you organize your tasks by categories that align with what’s important in your life. So you can create categories that include:

  • Business

  • Work

  • Health

  • Family

  • Kids

  • Fun

  • Someday, this is where you’ll put the things you’d like to get to… well, someday!

  • And you want a done category; it’s nice to have a place to reflect everything that’s been completed.

Your Master List will never be finished, it’s simply one place to collect all the things that you’re thinking about getting done. Since the list is always changing, I recommend keeping it in a digital format like a Google doc or an app like Evernote (this is what I do) but if you are strictly a pen and paper kind of peep, then treat yourself to a notebook that you dedicate to your Master List.

Step 2: Your Weekly List

This is where the magic really happens. At the end of the week or on Sundays (I love Sundays) dedicate 15 minutes to sit down and plan your upcoming week. You’re going to take out your Master List and pick the highest-priority items and put them on your weekly list.

Now, where is your weekly list? Again, this can be an electronic document OR you can write it down on a piece of paper that you keep on your desk, or put it into your planner.

Next open your calendar and pencil in dates and times to schedule when you will complete these tasks. Things may change — but the important thing is you are starting with a plan of action. And by the way this is the secret of the world’s most successful people — they put things on their calendar.

Step #3: The Daily List

Your final step is to spend 5 minutes at the end of your day to plan your next day.

Refer to your weekly list and calendar see what you have planned and jot down a list of 3-5 things. That’s it! Keep it simple — less is more! And at this point — you can jot down those to-do’s on a post-it note or your planner. Some people like just put all the day’s to-do’s right on their calendar.

So next time you feel controlled by your to-do list, ditch it and try the Master List approach instead.