The ultimate guide to creating a checklist

Getting your life organized? Check. Helping you get things done faster? Check. Delivering ease and peace of mind? Check.

Checklists are one of the most effective organizational tools in history, and used effectively can help you get you moving through tasks quickly and easily. But not all checklists are created equal! If you want to use checklists to get organized and level up your life in a major way, you don’t need just any checklist, you need the right checklist.

In this article, we will explore how to leverage checklists to become more organized, time-efficient and productive.

What is the importance of a checklist?

Writing a checklist in notebook, ultimate guide to creating a checklist

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So, first things first, before we jump into how to create a checklist, let’s talk about why checklists are important.

Checklists are productivity must-try because they give you the “big picture” of what needs to get done. By listing out and organizing your tasks—and then checking each one off one by one—you can easily prioritize how to spend your time (and make sure no important tasks fall through the cracks).

Checklists also provide a serious dose of productivity-related positive reinforcement. As you check off tasks, you’ll get a surge of accomplishment, which inspires you to keep going, check off more tasks and get more done, and increase your overall productivity in the process.

And finally, by creating a checklist regularly, you are able to decrease the mental load needed to remember all the micro-task that need to be completed every day.

The right checklist design is an important part of building an effective checklist. Nail the design of your to-do list with Canva’s checklist templates, like the Blue Mandala Yoga Exercise Packing Checklist, the Simple Charcoal and White Writer Checklist, or the Grey and Blue Simple Leaves Checklist.

How to start a checklist

Illustrated checklist, ultimate guide to creating a checklist

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Alright, so now that you’re on board with the idea of a checklist, let’s jump right in and talk about how, exactly, to get one started.

What is the best type of to-do list?

The first thing you need to figure out before you start putting together your checklist is what type of checklist is going to be the most beneficial to your schedule, and help you get the most done.

There are two main categories of checklists:

  • Daily checklist. A daily checklist is a list of all the tasks you need to complete in a single day. This will change from day to day depending on what’s on the agenda. If you don’t finish a task before your head hits the pillow at night, no worries! You can just move it to the next day’s list.
  • Situational checklist. A situational checklist is a checklist that features tasks specific to a certain event or area of your life. So, for example, a to-do list for a wedding or a checklist for a new baby that’s on the way. These will typically take longer to complete than your daily to-do list, but are super helpful for organizing tasks related to a big event in your life or work.

Daily and situational checklists are both extremely effective. Choosing one simply depends on what tasks you currently need to get done, what tasks you need to get done in the future, and what’s the most intuitive way to organize those tasks and make sure they get done.

Want to get a head start on your checklist design? We’ve got you covered! With templates for both daily checklists (like the Blue and White Modern Bordered Moon Bedtime Checklist) and situational checklists (like the Pink and White Bunting Checklist), you’ll find everything you need to build the perfect to-do list on Canva.

How to create your checklist

To-do list in notebook, ultimate guide to creating a checklist

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It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a daily checklist or a situational checklist for a specific event, the process of creating a checklist is the exact same.

Step 1: Do a “brain dump”

The first step to creating an effective checklist is to do a “brain dump” and get every task and to-do that’s bouncing in your head out on paper.

Sit down with a pen and paper (or open up a Word or Google doc on your computer) and jot down everything that needs to be done. For example, let’s say you’re creating a checklist for your wedding. You’d want to write down everything from scheduling a tasting with the caterer to buying gifts for your bridal party to writing your vows. Or, if you’re building a daily checklist, you would want to write down all your repeatable daily tasks (like driving your child to soccer practice) as well as any upcoming one-off tasks you need to work into your daily schedule (like calling the dentist to schedule your annual appointment).

When you’re doing your brain dump, don’t hold back! You want your list of potential tasks and to-do’s to be as comprehensive as possible. (And don’t get overwhelmed! You can always eliminate to-do’s later if you decide your list is too long and a certain task isn’t a priority.)

Step 2: Organize and prioritize tasks

Once you’ve “dumped” all your tasks onto the page, it’s time to start organizing and prioritizing tasks.

First, you’re going to want to look to organize and group your to-do’s in a way that makes sense. So, for example, you might organize tasks by frequency (like daily, weekly, monthly) by type of task (like scheduling appointments or to-do’s for school), or by how the task relates to your life (like “tasks related to the kids” or “tasks related to the engagement party”).

Once your tasks are organized, it’s time to start ranking them by priority. First, look at each task and rank it as an A, B, or C task. “A” tasks are high-priority and need to be tackled immediately. “B” tasks are important but less urgent, and C tasks are to-do’s you want to have on your radar for the future, but there’s no immediate need to get them done.

So, for example, let’s say you’re creating a moving checklist. Examples of A, B, and C tasks might be calling the power company to make sure you have electricity on move-in day (A task), researching cable options in your new neighborhood (B task), or writing cards for your neighbors letting them know your new address and contact info (C task).

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to prioritizing tasks. It’s just about figuring out what tasks are the most urgent/important so you can get those out of the way first.

Step 3: Put them on your to-do list

Once your tasks are organized and prioritized, it’s time to assemble them in an actual checklist.

List your tasks in order of priority and if applicable, put the date or time when you need to complete them by. For example, a daily checklist might have a task that says “Pick up Chris from the train station, 4 pm” while a situational checklist might have a task that says “Schedule the florist by June 21.”

Step 4: Check off each item as you complete it

Once your to-do list is all laid out, it’s time to start actually working your way through tasks, and checking off each item on the checklist as you complete it. Marking your checklist every time you complete a task will not only give you a boost of motivation to keep going, but it will also help you keep track of what you’ve accomplished and what still needs to get done.

Step 5: Continue adding items as they come up

In a perfect world, you’d get to the bottom of your checklist and say “Great! I’m done!” But let’s be real—there’s always more stuff to do. But the beauty of checklists is that as more tasks (inevitably) come up, all you have to do is add it to your checklist and keep moving forward!

Want to get the most out of your checklists? Go digital

Checklist Landing Page, ultimate guide to creating a checklist

Now, you can make checklists the old fashioned way—with a pen and paper—but if you want to take your to-do list to the next level, you should definitely consider going digital.

Digital checklists are not only easier to keep organized, but they’re also easier to change, edit, and expand on (not to mention that, from a design standpoint, they look a LOT better).

Want to go digital with your checklists? Get started with one of Canva’s checklist templates, like the Blue and Orange School Checklist, the Pink & Black Minimal Chic Checklist, or the Dark Blue and Pink Minimalist Dorm Chore Chart.

Checklist examples

Checklist in Clipboard, ultimate guide to creating a checklist

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Not sure where to get started with your checklists? Here are a few ideas:

Checklist for buying a house

Between looking at properties, working with your real estate agent, securing funding, and all the other 10,000 tasks that go along with a buying a house, you’re going to be flooded with to-do’s, and a checklist is a great way to keep track of them all.

There are so many things to keep track of when you’re buying a new house. Keep all your real estate tasks organized with a simple checklist, like the Black and White Paint Strokes Modern Checklist or the Blue and White Striped Checklist.

Moving checklist example

Moving is another life activity that requires a crazy amount of planning and logistics. Creating a moving checklist is a great way to make sure the move goes smoothly—and you don’t forget any important moving-related tasks (like switching utilities or hiring movers).

The right checklists will make sure nothing slips through the cracks during your big move, like cleaning your old place or packing all the essentials. Get started with Canva’s checklist templates, like the Purple Checklist List or the Peach and Blue Minimal Framed Checklist.

Wedding checklist example

A wedding is one of the most exciting events in any couple’s life—and planning that wedding is typically one of the most stressful. A wedding checklist is a great way to keep all the wedding-related tasks and vendors organized in one place—and to ensure that there are no mishaps or miscommunications leading up to the big day.

Get organized for your big day with Canva’s wedding checklist templates, like the Dark Blue & Pink Wedding Checklist Planner or the Gray and Pink Simple Accessories Wedding Checklist.

Travel checklist example

Whether you’re traveling across town or across the world, there are a lot of tasks you need to get done to prepare for the trip. Organizing all your travel-related tasks into a checklist is a great way to make sure your trip goes off without a hitch (and you don’t make any rookie mistakes, like forgetting your travel pillow or not renewing your passport).

Make sure your next trip is a success with Canva’s travel checklist templates, like the Brown Beige Photo Simple Checklist or the Teal and Brown Illustrated Sea Creatures Checklist.

Checklist for a baby

There is so much to do when a new baby is on the way, from shopping for all the baby necessities to prepping the nursery. Getting organized with a checklist will help you knock through all of your pre-baby tasks before the little one comes, because once baby arrives, you’ll have a whole new list of things to get done!

Planning for a baby is a lot of work—but Canva’s checklist templates, like the Green Yellow Packing Checklist or the Green Simple Grocery Checklist, can help you make sure you have everything you need to keep Mom and baby happy and healthy both before and after the birth.

Check “making a to-do list” off your checklist

Checklists are a great way to organize tasks, increase productivity, and Get. Stuff. Done. And now that you know exactly how to build an effective to-do list from the ground up, all that’s left to do is get out there and create your checklist!

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