How Long Your To-Do List Should Be (Yours is probably too long)

All The Boxes Left Unchecked

If you’ve never set a limit to how long your to-do list should be, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Thanks for reading this instead of working on your to-do list… You’re my kind of people.

If you’re like me, you probably have a lovely habit of letting your To-Do list grow and grow and grow…

Spongebob should have less on his to-do list

Lately however, I’ve found a much healthier framework for my to-do lists.

I am finally feeling accomplished at the end of a work day, and the switch between work mode and home mode is much smoother – because I don’t have unchecked boxes nagging my perception of the day.

Here’s how long your to-do list should be if you’re like me:

  • Maximum of 8 Items
  • 2 of them MUST be mind/body related (meditation, walking, reading, weight training, etc.)
  • Put 3 or 4 items on tomorrow’s list before you end your day

The Pickup List

Inevitably, I’m going to be faced with tasks that pop up and fires that need to be put out. (My job is I.T. and I have 4 kids under nine… I’m constantly putting out fires. ?)

These tasks I pick up through the day get put onto an aptly named “Pickup List”.

I can quickly assess whether the task is urgent enough to warrant replacing something on my current list – or it just gets saved for when I build tomorrow’s list.

Read: How to Create Consistent Content

Setting Boundaries is Setting Expectations

Setting these boundaries in myself completely changed my confidence level when it came to work. I was finally getting the satisfaction out of my job.It made me feel like I was actually doing a good job.

But this involved changing how I accept and manage incoming tasks. This means I couldn’t do it all internally and expect things to stick. I had to set the same boundaries with others.

I could no longer accept tasks and tell people I would get to it in the same day. If it’s urgent, there’s exceptions – but for the most part I get to push back and say I’m fully busy and would try to slot it in the next day. This has been incredibly freeing, and is the likely source of the confidence boost that came with this change.

I recommend taking a good, detailed look at how you treat your to-do list. Is it setting you up for failure?

Start today. Cut your to-do list down to a comfortable number, and include something to improve your body and mind. You’ll thank yourself at the end of the day.

Send me a message on Twitter – let me know your to-do list tactics!

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This essay was first shared in the “Creator’s Notes” Newsletter.

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