J.K. Riki

The Benefits of a Visual To-Do List

How might a small change in to-do list creation have a big impact on motivation?

Each year I create a list of things I’d like to accomplish (or at least keep in mind) during the stretch from January to December. This gives me an opportunity to check in once a month and be reminded of things I might have put on the back burner or forgotten about.

Last year I wrote my list with small circles in front of each item. When a task was finished, I colored the bubble green. If a task missed a deadline, the bubble was filled in red. (I had a lot more red than green on that page, let me tell you. But today is a new day to try again!)

This year I did something even more along those lines. Being an artist, I drew a little image in pen that represented the things I wanted to try and do in 2017.

My plan is to color them in with pencils or markers (whatever is close at hand) when I complete one and take that time to appreciate completing that particular goal. What I didn’t realize was how much of an effect this small change would have on me! Here’s how:

  • I put more thought into each item, because of carefully drawing images to represent each one.
  • I feel more compelled to complete them so I can have fun coloring them in afterward.
  • Just looking at the page brings me joy instead of a foreboding feeling of merely needing to get to work!

I’m sure I’m not the first person to make their to-do list a work of art, but it’s new to me, and I’m glad I did it. I thought I’d share, in case you wanted to attempt something similar and see how it changes the way you look at your own to-do list.

But wait. Maybe you aren’t an artist? First of all, that’s no reason not to try. No one comes out of the womb capable of drawing well, it takes practice! But if you want a visual list and lack the current skill set to pull it off (I still think everyone should try first!) I am willing to do the little icons for you, no charge. It will help me improve my own drawing skills. Plus I feel happier when I’m doing art for others instead of just myself. All you have to do is supply the to-dos.

So if you’d like some drawings of your goals for 2017, leave a comment below and list the items. Or you can email me and I’ll send them that way! List away!


  1. Ferdinand

    The icons are a great idea!
    Do you know bullet journaling? There is a whole community dedicated to this insanely practical system, while making it look amazing and personalized at the same time, like in this example: http://www.bohoberry.com/bullet-journal-update/
    My wife has been using a bullet journal for a while now and is not only super organized, but also is constantly working on some beautiful and creative pages.

    1. JK Riki (Post author)

      I think you mentioned that once before, yep! I’ll have to look into it again, my lousy memory is coming up blank, ha ha.

  2. Jordan Crawford

    This is great! I have a hard time putting in consistent effort for my passion project. This will not only help me be organized, but will subdivide this immense task. Thanks, and I hope your new year is going well! – Jordan Crawford

    1. JK Riki (Post author)

      Glad the info you found was helpful! Did you want me to do any to-do list drawings for you? Just let me know. Helps me practice art, so I have no problem with doing it. 🙂 Whatever method you pick, all the best with it!

  3. AbbyF

    Super cool idea thanks! I may not be a great artist but I will give it a try. ^.^ If nothing else I’ll practice drawing by drawing and that is one of my goals for the year! Meta!

    1. JK Riki (Post author)

      There’s definitely no drawing practice like actual drawing, ha ha. Good to hear you’re going to try it! Let us know how it goes.

  4. Sandy

    yes! you can help me with three personal goal icons
    l.) Tidy Shirts
    2.) Tidy coal section of holiday storage
    3.) Rework garden behind playhous

    1. JK Riki (Post author)

      You bet, here ya go! http://jkriki.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/01_26_Sandytodo01262017.jpg

      Now to get them done and get to coloring. 🙂


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *