The Best Tips to Creating a Basic To-Do List

How you enter a task on your to-do list makes a difference!

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #477

3. Note Due Dates

If a task absolutely has to be done by a certain date, choose a way to notate that in your list, rather than assuming you’ll magically remember it. “Recruit world-saving cohort of super heroes by December 19th.” That way, when you scan your task list on December 1st, you’ll realize that you have only 18 days to get on Wonder Woman’s calendar. Otherwise, it’s easy to procrastinate indefinitely.

4. Priorities

Some people record priorities for each to-do item. I tend not to do that. My priorities change regularly, depending on what’s going on in my life, and some part of my brain knows what’s most important on any given day. If you’re like me, what works better is scanning my full task list daily, and pulling out the things that seem like top priorities on that particular day. 

5. Little and Often

You can even work on a top priority for a little while, then switch away for a bit and later switch back. Just re-add things to your list if you don’t finish them. Some people process their list item by item, and finish one item completely before moving on to the next. You can also adopt productivity guru Mark Forster’s approach of “little and often.” You only work on a task as much as you feel like. Then you cross it off your list, and if you didn’t finish it, you add it back to the end of your list.

The tasks you're skipping car be dropped. You won't finish them anyway.

(We’ve explored Mark’s Autofocus task handling system in a prior episode. It combines scanning with “little-and-often.” He’s working on a new way to work through to-do lists, and I’ll do an episode on that as soon as he releases it.)

6. Your List Will Grow. Prune It.

One thing you can be sure of: your list will grow infinitely, faster than you can strike things off it. Every now and then, review your list and remove anything that doesn’t seem important any more. Just keep in mind that you only have a certain amount of time and energy, and if you keep skipping some tasks in favor of others, it means that some part of your brain is very clear that the tasks you’re skipping can be dropped because, well, you won’t get to them anyway. Welcome to being human.

To-do lists are often the cornerstone of personal productivity. Give all your to-do items verbs and nouns both. Make sure they’re specific enough so you know when you’ve completed them. Note down due dates, and add priorities if it makes sense, given your work style. Then, start working your list, using Autofocus 4 or some other method that works for you. Pretty soon, your Oreo ice cream cake will be perfectly positioned on your tenth anniversary table, ready to share with all your friends, reanimated or not.

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. Want great keynote speeches on productivity, Living an Extraordinary Life, or entrepreneurship? Hire me! Find me at http://SteverRobbins.com .

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.