“Mind Hack” — Do Just One Thing On Your To-Do List Every Day

Doing just one thing that is on your “to do list” every day can make a big difference to your productivity.


Like many people I am an endless procrastinator if given the chance, so I am always on the lookout for new ways to help myself get things done.

Anything that helps in getting things done is fantastic.

I thought it would be useful to do some posts to share some of these tips.

I think most of us suffer from limited time and finite mental energy so anything that helps us to be more productive is valuable.

This is something that has been working very well for me recently:

Do One Thing on the List Every Day Without Fail

I keep a notepad with me at all times — nothing revolutionary or new there — I use it to record my “to do list” and I’m sure a lot of people do the same.

Make a deal with yourself to do one thing on the list.

Here is the simple thing I have changed to make it more effective though:

I have made a deal with myself that I will make sure I do one thing (the easiest thing on the list) every day and I will not worry if I do nothing else.

This takes very little time or effort and here is the surprising thing: -

When I have overcome the hurdle of doing that one little thing, it actually makes doing some of the other tasks on the list seem much easier.

Often, I can then run through the rest of the list much more easily — sometimes I even complete the entire list on the same day.

Why Does this Work?

In my opinion it works because we create mental barriers that can exaggerate the work (and hence pain) involved in completing even minor tasks.

We create mental barriers which can seem at times insurmountable.
These barriers are unrealistic yet very powerful.

They are created because we are prone to various errors of thought which affect our perceptions of a situation.

These affect our behaviour and create procrastination which makes the situation appear worse.

The longer the list gets the harder it is to tackle it and we just keep putting it off because it seems more and more difficult to do tackle it!

This is one of the foundations of cognitive behavioural theory in psychology (read more here).

When we commit to doing a single task without fail we force ourselves to test the reality of the task versus our skewed perception.
Reality testing can shatter the barriers and make us feel empowered.

This breaks the illusory barriers in our way and can also help to shatter the barriers that stand in the way of the other tasks in the list.

In addition there is also an internal reward (pleasure) that comes from completing a task.

This can help to negate some of the pain of initiating the other tasks on the list which also makes them easier to do.

Another side benefit is that it seems to remove a lot of the cognitive effort that comes from thinking about whether we should or shouldn’t do a particular task.

I think quite often we are not even conscious of the cognitive effort that wastes and removing it can paradoxically grant us greater mental energy.

Anyway I hope you found this little productivity tip useful.

Let me know what you think. Have you used this method yourself?


  1. Morin, Amy. 2017. “10 Thinking Errors That Will Crush Your Mental Strength.” Psychology Today. Accessed July 3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201501/10-thinking-errors-will-crush-your-mental-strength.

Thank you for reading

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