How To Keep Your Task List Healthy And Focused

How To Keep Your Task List Healthy And Focused

Making the decision to actually keep track of the things you have to do is the first step toward a more organised life, but how do you keep that to-do list in check and stop it from developing a mind of its own? It takes some planning and a little thought, but with a little attention you can make sure your to-do list helps you get things done instead of intimidate you into doing nothing.

It’s easy to let your to-do list grow so large and unwieldy that it actually serves to keep you from working instead of a tool that helps you prioritise, organise, and get your pet projects out of your head and into reality. Author and commandN host Amber Mac has some tips to help you keep your task list healthy and in check in a post over at FastCompany, the least of which is to remember to be in the now and pick and choose which tasks actually need to make it onto your to-do list.

After all, “winterise my house” probably shouldn’t be on the same list as “plant spring herbs in the garden”, and if you let yourself add every little task that has to be done without thinking about when those tasks actually need to be done (or when you’ll get around to them,) you’ll find yourself underwater quickly.

Another way you can make your task list a little less intimidating is to make sure that rewarding yourself is on your list and not just in your head. After you add a particularly daunting task to your list, add another to reward yourself with a trip to your favourite restaurant, or to pick up a new DVD – anything that will make you feel the work was worthwhile.

One more tip that’s not on the list that helps a lot is to remember when to say no and scratch something off of your list entirely. If the work is for someone else, it’s important to let them know that it’s not that you don’t care about them, but you just have a lot to do. If it’s a task for yourself, think about when you can get back around to it, or if it’s really necessary at all. The important thing to remember is to keep your to-do list manageable. If you can keep it from spiraling into a huge affair, you’ll be more inclined to tackle it.

Work Smart: 5 Easy To-Dos That Keep Your To-Do List Healthy [FastCompany]


  • To-do lists becoming too big and scary is a real problem for me, but I also find that I do need to keep track of things I need to do further in the future so that I don’t forget them (such as getting tickets to see a play in a few weeks time, which can’t be done just yet as tickets aren’t available). So I add everything to the list, but I usually only look at the tasks due in the next week, so the list isn’t too intimidating.

    I use Remember The Milk, and so I have a saved search dueWithin:”7 days of today”, and I rarely look at my full task list.

  • I find that keeping two lists helps. I have a today list and a later list. Tasks I know I’m going to do today go there and anything else is later. I’ll review both lists regularly however and switch tasks between them as necessary.

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