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Is There A Better Way To Use A To-Do List?

Updated: Aug 18, 2023



Ah, the humble to-do list, sitting patiently waiting for you to dump all of your mental clutter onto it before finding something more fun to do instead.


After discovering a slightly more engaging way to use my to-do list, I thought I’d better share it incase you’re suffering from the dread and distraction on your list too.


An ongoing document

Are you the kind of person who feels success from ticking everything off your to-do list? Or maybe even the type who adds the tasks you’ve already done just to get that easy win feeling? (guilty!)

What if I were to suggest that a to-do list could be an ongoing document - would that send you into existential dread or does that excite you a bit?


A while ago, I had the thought that my website is an ongoing document and that by adding ‘finish website’ to my list was pointless, because I’m a changing and developing human being so how would I expect my website to stay the same and for it to one day be ‘completed.’ Looking at it this way took SO MUCH pressure off my need to finish the task. I started to look at my to-do list with these goggles too.


Your definition of 'productive'

A ‘productive day’ to me is to finish all the things I set out to do that day - things that I’ve cherry picked from the huge on-going document to add to my static sticky note. Once everything is ticked off I consider that a productive day. Sometimes the things on my list are ‘to walk in the park’, ‘ to eat well (whatever I fancy)’ and ‘to read’- planning in quiet time or time to look after yourself is a very important task.


I started reading Deep Work by Cal Newport (no, we’re not related), what I took from the book was to separate my to-do list into a Deep work section and a shallow work section. The Deep work bit holds all the big goal tasks and the shallow work holds the smaller but still supportive tasks. I added my own 'personal paraphernalia' section too, these are outside of work time jobs.


I have three big goals in my Deep Work section: to write my blog post for the month, to write my monthly round up newsletter and to complete a page in my daily drawing journal (with the big goals to be to write more, to draw more and to share more interesting content). The shallow goals for me are usually along the lines of: buy a new drawing journal, to read book x or to find that recipe on Pinterest to share on my newsletter.


Basically, keep the big goals and deep work simple and easy to stick to with a good deadline and keep the shallow tasks simple and supportive. Work on the deep and meaningful and get yourself nice and comfy in the flow state.


Are you a digital to-do lister, a glittery gel pen to-do lister or a scruffy scrap paper to-do lister?


I'm planning on reading The Productivity Project next by Chris Bailey, let me know if you have any book recommendations or to-do list hacks! I'd love to hear them


More interesting reads:

Hyper Focus by Chris Bailey


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If you have a friend who might enjoy this kind of discussion, feel free to share this with them or if you have any thoughts on this subject please do leave a comment or drop me an email. To keep up with the latest blog posts, join my monthly round up here.



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