No More To-Do Lists

The to-do list is a staple of modern productivity.

But it shouldn’t be.

To-do lists are endless. The number of tasks increases faster than we can ever cross them off.

And yet, life goes on without them done.

There are several better alternatives.

Don’t write everything down: important items keep coming back—if they don’t, they aren’t worth of being there in the first place.

Focus on one thing per day: most productivity advice focuses on accomplishing more in a limited period of time. The more important problem is figuring out which work to do in the first place.

Choosing a single focus each day gives more emphasis to the latter question. It asks: if I could only do one thing today, what would it be? The highest priority task will always bring better results than several low priority ones.

Set a time and place: studies show that planning a time and place makes us much more likely to do that task.

In the modern world, this means one thing: use your calendar.

Your calendar replaces your to-do list, or at least takes items from your list and makes them a reality.

So, what should you be doing instead of keeping a to-do list?

  1. Rely on your brain to resurface the important ideas
  2. Choose one thing to do each day
  3. Set a time and place for each thing on your calendar

Losing the to-do list is the key to working on high-value tasks, and avoiding the disappointment of an endless to-do list.