To-do lists work as the best way to remind yourself to do something at another date or time. Typically these tasks will be short in duration, otherwise, you should block time out in your calendar to complete the task.
The GTD method
The most popular method when it comes to creating a to-do list would have to be GTD. GTD or the Getting Things Done method is originally explored in David Allen’s book. It uses a complex flow chart to determine what you should do every time you have a new task. His flow chart is the basis of any great GTD methodology, however, I would highly recommend you start here, but, tweak as suits you. I personally have drifted quite a distance from the original GTD method and have found better results for myself.
How I have implemented the GTD method (Inbox)
The only part I have taken from the GTD method would have to be the inbox. The whole idea behind using a to-do list religiously is how easy you make it is to capture tasks. This means that when something pops into your head, you will want to capture it straight away. A lot of the time you won’t have the spare time to add all the metadata along with the task. Adding the task to the inbox with the intention to add the metadata later is the best approach. Even adding time in your Calendars each week to sort through your inbox is even better.
How to use the categories of life
Once you have started collecting tasks in your inbox you will want to start organising them into categories. The best way to do this is to create folders that correspond to The Categories of Life.
Shared to-do lists
If you live with someone else or are working collaboratively with a group (for example planning a holiday) sharing folders from your to-do list can work really well here as each person can be assigned tasks and they can be tracked in one location.
Different tools (Todoist, Apple reminders)
The first tool I used seriously for my task to-do lists was Todoist (this was for no particular reason apart from someone at work recommending it). This has worked really well for the past year, however, with all my devices being Apple and the reminders app receiving some much-needed features in iOS 14, I could finally look to make the move. Apple Reminders has been my go-to for the last month, and although missing a lot of the features required for a true GTD implementation it works well for my use case.
Why I handwrite my to-do list for work
There is one place where I contradict the ways of working I have put in place and that is in my day-to-day work tasks. While I could easily create a notes folder in my to-do list tool of choice the requirements a slightly different. Having the full list displayed with tasks that I have completed highlighted in green makes it very easy to give updates to managers at any point during the day. As it's also a rolling list from day to day I don’t need to spend time reassigning the due dates as everything moves to the next day anyways.
While there are many different ways to make to-do lists (I use a few different ones myself) finding a process that has the least friction for you is the goal.