Master List vs To-Do List: Know the Difference and How to Use Both
Many times the master list vs to-do list debate can be confusing as people use them interchangeably to describe what their plans are. Those plans could be for a given day, week, subject matter, or individual assignment.
Regrettably, we’ve even found ourselves making the comparison a time or two over the years. However, there are some very clear differences between these two organizational tools.
In this article, we set out to explain the purpose of a good master list and to-do list. Without furthe … to-do (sorry) … let’s begin!
What a Master List Is
A master list is an itemized list that you put together to keep track of your major projects. Projects are things that entail many action steps to complete.
You don’t complete a project with a simple action, in other words. Multiple steps must be taken with one leading to another, though you don’t necessarily have to work it in order.
You can create a master list for virtually anything, no matter how big or small. Some master lists even have special names, like a “bucket list” when talking about things you must do before you die.
Others, such as what you have to study for an exam to be ready for it, are considerably less ambitious. The main thing to take away from the practice right now is its versatility.
What a Master List Is Not
A master list is not a list of small steps. It is not the individual actions themselves. Assuming it is will lead to you losing track of your projects.
It will become difficult to track high-level assignments across all your classes. It will be incredibly hard to prioritize the items that are of the most importance.
No, there’s a place for step-by-step action, but it’s not here. To learn more about where that is reserved, see the next section!
What a To-Do List Is
A to-do list are the items you have to get done to complete a project. Sometimes that can mean one or two. Sometimes dozens. It all depends on how big the project is and how many of the items you are responsible for.
A to-do list can be created at the start of each new day or tracked over time. One clever way we’ve heard it done is to use a Notes tab on your phone. Write down all the action steps you have to take for the day, then format it so you can check off each item you complete.
Leave items that might reoccur. You might not do anything with them for the day ahead, but you can always check them off while noting when they will become urgent once again. The feeling of checking it off will give you a psychological momentum boost.
At the same time, you’re not deleting it so you know to keep it in mind for the next time it’s due. These types of to-do lists can get pretty long, but they help with memory and they give you a nice forward push at the start of a day.
What a To-Do List Is Not
A to-do list is not intended to be vague. It’s intended to be spelled out step-by-step. Vagueness on a to-do list is a sure way to forget important deadlines.
To-do lists are also not something you do as needed. You should have a mandatory to-do list that you keep up with every day. This will get you in the practice of digging deep into your memory. It will also help you to systemize emails and text messages and other communications protocols that keep you plugged into your responsibilities.
How They Can Work Together
So far, we’ve spoken about master lists vs to-do lists as if they are to be kept forever separate. This was done on purpose so that you wouldn’t be thinking about one while you’re supposed to be focusing on another.
Now it’s time to merge the two. With all kinds of applications that make this a breeze, there’s really no reason to skip this step any more. Here’s how the two work together.
You create a master list of the major projects that need to get done for a given subject (English, Math, Science, Reading). Under each project item, create a checklist of the individual steps you’ll need to take to complete the project.
How Many Lists Should I Have Anyway?
Obviously, there is no single answer we can give you to this. Except to say, you should have as many as you can reasonably keep up with. Also, it’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with starting a list and abandoning it or revising it.
To really make the most of your education or life skills, you should create a master list of any project that’s going to challenge your mind beyond the basics. For the sake of illustration, let’s say 4-6 to-do items warrant an actual master list.
Incorporate however many you can no matter what subject you’re taking or what level of school or work you’re in. It will make a world of difference in how you go about managing projects and responding to deadlines.
Know How the Master List vs To-Do List Items Differ
We are hoping this master list vs to-do list breakdown will give you a better idea of what the two are, how they are different, and how you can use them both to better reach your personal goals.
If you’re not going to do the system, we implore you to adopt an organizational strategy that will work for you, especially as you get closer and progress through college.
Good luck as you set out to make an impact. May your mind always be able to make sense out of the complexities of life!
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]