Effective To Do List Format: 100-Year Hack

written by Dan Silvestre
Productivity, Time Management

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.

Tell me if any of these sound like you…

  • You got dozen of pages of to-dos in your phone and then some more spread across other apps, like Slack or Trello (plus more on apps that you even forgot you were using)
  • You write your to-do lists on paper but somehow get carried away and end up with a giant list. At the end of the day, you are lucky if you completed half of the tasks
  • You are always looking for the “next-big-thing” of productivity apps so that it finally solves your problem of organization
  • You complete a lot of tasks throughout the day but somehow didn’t do the most important items

Trust me, I know the feeling.

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 stuff that are not necessarily urgent/important, such as checking social media (FOMO much?) or replying to emails.

Here’s the deal: your to-do list should be a success list.

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.

What you want is to choose the tasks that maximize your time and energy based on the values and goals that matter the most to you. This is your success list.

Here’s how to start building one right now.

Your Daily Task List Template

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 the one thing that’s stopping you from achieving your maximum productivity.

The good news?

There’s a solution that’s been around for more than 100 years.

The “Ivy Lee Method” is a simple and effective to do list format.

Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer research concluded that hand notes help you process information better.

So, I recommend that you use a pen and paper to maximize this to do list format. Plus, it’s a minimalist setup!

effective to do list format

Here are the 5 steps of this effective to do list method:

  1. Before leaving, at the end of your workday, 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 1 to 6. 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! I recommend you use the Pomodoro productivity technique in order to do deep work
  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, get rid of it completely. If you keep delaying something, it probably isn‘t that important anyway. Quit the task.

This is the same exact method I use to write to-do lists.

Tags:: tasks, To-Dos

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