Make these 6 changes to your to-do list to turn it into a productive machine

Spend 30 minutes every morning writing your future self an instruction manual for your tasks. Be granular, get specific – Shane

The to-do list is broken. It’s time for an upgrade. Make these 6 tweaks to transform your list from an anxiety pit to a production machine. Thread 👇
It started out with good intentions. A useful tool to guide you to your goals. These days, the to-do list seems to do more harm than good. Bloated. Cumbersome. Overwhelming. But all is not lost…
With a few quick tweaks we can take back our to-do list and get more done with our limited time: 1. Rebrand, reframe 2. Make an Inbox 3. Think first, execute later 4. Projects v Tasks 5. Organize by energy 6. Bonus points 👇
1: It’s time for a re-brand To-do lists have a branding problem. The term is vague and too easy for us to abuse. From now on, you have an Action List.
An Action List is what your to-do list was supposed to be before it became overloaded with errant tasks. – Intentionally designed – Clearly prioritized – Focused on immediate next steps
2: Make an Inbox On that note, your Action List can’t survive alone. It needs a sidekick — the “Inbox”. Your Inbox intercepts the stray tasks that pop into your head throughout the day before they sabotage your list. It’s the gatekeeper to your focus. Create it, use it.
3: Think first, execute later Most to-dos are too ambiguous. When it’s time to execute the task, we’re forced to disrupt our execution flow while we figure out the ‘how’ of getting it done. This is inefficient and stifles momentum.
Do this instead: Spend 30 minutes every morning writing your future self an instruction manual for your tasks. Be granular, get specific. By front loading your strategic thinking, you’re removing unnecessary friction from the execution process.
4: Don’t mistake projects for tasks “Launch ad campaign” is not a task, it’s a project. Keep an eye on the scope of your to-do items. If a task can be broken down into 5 or more sub-tasks, it might be a project. Stop setting yourself up for failure.
5: Organize tasks by energy Remember, our energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. A well designed Action List pairs cognitively complex tasks with with peak energy periods. Stop wasting precious Deep Work time on low level admin tasks.
Tip: create a Lazy List. This is where you bank tasks that don’t require much mental heavy lifting. When you find yourself in an energy dip (ie me every afternoon), turn to this list to keep momentum.
6: Bonus points There’s nothing more motivating than seeing a completed list at the end of the day. It creates a positive feedback loop that drives future performance. Unfortunately, as over-achieving entrepreneurs we rarely give ourselves that opportunity.
Tendency to over-estimate what can get done in a day? Same. To help keep your list small & realistic, try a Bonus list. If you get to them, Bonus points. If not, no harm no foul.
The to-do list can still be an effective (even vital) tool for getting things done. But you’ve got to be intentional about how you use it. Give these tweaks a shot and let me know how it goes.
Working alone is hard. For tweets on productivity & achievement frameworks for freelancers, indiehackers, and soloprenuers, follow me: @shane___martin Upcoming Threads: – Deep dive on how to plan your day – How to build motivation from the inside out

Sign Up for nextbigwhat newsletter

The smartest newsletter, partly written by AI.

Download, the short news app for busy professionals