Life Tool: Daily To-Do List

Charles Moore
Jan 6, 2018 · 2 min read

This post is part of a series. You can start at the beginning or see All of the Tools.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

“…use the to-do list not as a tool to track what is on your plate, but as a tool to reflect on what should be on your plate.”


“I should create a to-do list? Duh.”

Yeah, there’s not much to say about to-do lists. It’s a good idea to have one. Just do whatever works for you.

I include a list of meetings I have during the day, and what time they are. This is as much to orient my mind to the day as a reference (after all, the meetings are also in my calendar).

One of my daily to-do lists

The only points to make here are nuances I’ve found helpful:

  • DO use the to-do list not as a tool to track what is on your plate, but as a tool to reflect on what should be on your plate.
  • DO start your daily to-do list from a blank sheet of paper. In fact, I specifically avoid using electronic tools to track to-dos because it’s too easy for yesterday’s priorities to stay on the list even when circumstances change what is important for today.
  • DO identify the highest priorities, and avoid listing everything. Almost every framework for to-do lists encourages that practice.
  • DO focus on outcomes, not just inputs. In Getting Things Done, David Allen writes that “[a]lmost all of the to-do lists I have seen over the years…were merely listing stuff, not inventories of the resultant real work that needed to be done.”
  • DON’T put tasks that will take less than 2 minutes on your list, per David Allen. You might as well just do them.

Also, a hypothetical you might want to consider:

Say, you need to touch base with a friend about something, so you write her name on your to-do list. Let’s call her Lindsey. When you finally see her, definitely do not cross her name off your to-do list in the middle of the conversation. Lindsey will notice, and she won’t like it.

…not that it’s something that happened to me or anything. :) (Sorry, Lindsey!)


I want to hear your thoughts!

This is a “living post,” in that I’d like your help to add to make it more valuable. What have you tried that is similar? Have any stories about the impact of using a tool like this? Please share!

See All of the Tools for other posts like this.

Charles Moore

Written by

Product and analytics guy. Here, sharing a bunch of random insights from a bunch of random experiences.

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