A Perfect To-Do List

04.12.2017 |

Episode #4 of the course How to be more productive by Dan Silvestre


Welcome back!

You are already 50-times more productive by being aware of where to allocate your time more efficiently and which projects to focus on. In other words, you are focused on what matters. It’s time to step it up by optimizing those things. And in today’s lesson, I am going to show you the most effective to-do list format.

To-do lists are the quintessential productivity system: a way to organize daily tasks in a way that helps you get things done at your job. And yet, many people use to-do lists the wrong way.

Do you have dozen of pages of to-dos in your phone and then some more spread across other apps? Do you write your to-do lists on paper but somehow get carried away and end up with a giant list? Do you complete a lot of tasks throughout the day but somehow didn’t do the most important items?

Trust me, I know the feeling.


Busy versus Productive

Remember, being busy is not the same as being productive.

Being productive means doing the things that bring you progress in meaningful work, getting better at your job, investing in compound time to develop your skills, picking up healthy work habits, and moving the needle on your goals. On the other hand, being busy means doing lots of things that are not necessarily urgent/important, such as checking social media or replying to unimportant emails.

When you’re writing your to-do list, it’s tempting to write down all the tasks you might possibly get done the following day. But where do you even begin when your list seems to be getting longer by the minute? Those out-of-reach tasks might actually be what’s stopping you from achieving your maximum productivity. In other words, you don’t want to overload your list with all the tasks. That’s not an effective to-do list format. It lacks purpose and focus—your to-do list should be a success list.


Writing Your Success List

Yesterday, you chose your most important goals for the next month. Now think about things that need to be done to reach them, i.e. your meaningful activities. This is your success list. And there’s a solution for making it work that’s been around for more than 100 years. The “Ivy Lee Method” is a simple to-do list format.

I recommend that you use a pen and paper to maximize this format. Here are the five steps of this effective to-do list method:

1. At the end of your work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Don’t write three. Don’t write ten. Stick to six.

2. Now, order the six tasks by importance from one to six. Remember, progress in meaningful work is your number-one metric. Order the task according to this.

3. When you arrive in the morning, start by doing your first task. Don’t move on until you finished the first one. Don’t multitask!

4. Repeat the process for each task. If you didn’t manage to finish them all, move unfinished tasks to your list for tomorrow.

5. Rinse and repeat.

Bonus tip: If you carry an item too many days in a row without even touching it, get rid of it completely. If you keep delaying something, it probably isn‘t that important anyway.

Start by doing your to-do list for tomorrow using this format.

In the next lesson, I’m going to teach you a ridiculously simple hack on how to be more focused when working on each task.

To a Productive Day!



Recommended reading

Effective To-Do List Format: 100-Year Hack


Recommended book

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande


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