Lifehacker: 10 Unusual Ways to make your To Do List Work

Unless the first way is to hire someone else to do the other nine, I’m suspicious. But Lifehacker’s Melanie Pinola writes persuasively about methods of getting stuff down onto a list and then doing it. I don’t agree with them all but it’d be boring if I did. Here’s one unfair sample from her ten ways: she doesn’t claim it’s the best and I don’t think it’s representative of the rest but I just liked it as a dramatist:

Turn Your To-Do List into a Story

Visualise and map out your to-dos into a story, a narrative for your day. This storytelling technique can not only help motivate you to complete the tasks, it could boost your memory and help you make better sense of your days. There are other ways to visualise your to-do list that can prompt you to act more.

Top 10 Unusual Ways to Make Your To-Do List Actually Doable – Melanie Pinola, Lifehacker (22 Jun 2015).

Read the full piece.

Free today – Lists To Do for iPhone

I've not used it, not even heard of it before two minutes ago – but on being told of it, I wanted to make sure you knew too. This fairly basic-looking tasks app, Lists To Do, is free for today only.

It's usually 69p so it's not like that will destroy your bank balance, but To Do apps are so important that it's worth checking out a lot of them. And a lot of 69p can add up.

So do take a moment to check this one out here.

Should you write your To Do tasks as question?


So there.

Write your To Dos as if someone else is going to do them. Take the time to put that extra explanatory detail in there – so instead of writing “Phone meeting Anne” on your list, write “Phone Anne to ask her for purchase order number”. The second takes longer to write but you come to the phone tomorrow and you are dialling immediately. The former is shorter but tomorrow you’re going to look at “Phone meeting Anne” and think, what’s that about? Is she phoning me or am I supposed to phone her? And you may well have to stop to think: hang on, which Anne?

I believe this, I do this, it works. Not everyone agrees.

1# Change a relatively boring list to something that can excite you
Since lists in their current state are declarative in nature, I first tackled changing the way I write them.

I found out that we’re more likely to read something if it has a question mark attached to it which led me to change the way I write tasks.

Let’s start with one of the most boring tasks that I know off, doing your laundry.

Instead of writing it like the mundane task it is i.e. as a declaration “- Do the laundry at 8 PM”, write it as a question or even a challenge! This will rub some extra flavor into it “Can you finish the laundry before 8:30 PM?” and will make sure you’ll tackle it.

Asking question stimulates our curiosity; curiosity is an engine that motivates us to explore and discover.

Are We Managing Our To-Do Lists All Wrong? – IQ Tell

Haim Pekel wrote that on the IQ Tell productivity blog which I didn’t see and hadn’t heard of until Lifehacker spotted it yesterday. Lifehacker’s more pro this idea than I am, so do read the full piece on IQ Tell to see what you think.

Don’t give yourself a deadline

You’ve got this thing to do, it’s important, you want to do it, you need to do it, of course you’re going to put it on your To Do list and of course you’re going to put a deadline.


Does it actually, really, seriously, honestly, have to be done by a certain date? If you’re delivering something to a client, yes. But that is about the only time you need a deadline. If you work at a place where, say, the holiday rota comes out on a particular day and you’ve got this many seconds to get your request in, fine.

Everything else you do, avoid setting a deadline.

Don’t have a start date, don’t have a deadline date, just have the task.

Because you are going to get it done. It is on your list. You’ll write the task as if someone else is going to do it, fine. It’ll help you to say that it’s a task to do with this project or that: I have tasks for an event I’m producing, for instance. I’ll say the task belongs in that event project. If you’re using OmniFocus, you have to set a certain amount of detail in order to get the task out of your general-purpose, catch-all task inbox. (See part 2 of What’s So Great About OmniFocus.)

That task will then stay out of your way until you go looking for it. Part of using a good, trusted To Do system is that you don’t have to constantly see all your tasks because you elect to review the lot at certain times. It’s a core concept of David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

So it’s there, you don’t have to keep thinking about it, you will get it done.

If you added some artificial deadline, the task would pop up in your face on that date. But it’s an artificial deadline. A contrived one. Odds to onions, you’d see that notification and you would dismiss it. Why wouldn’t you? It isn’t a real deadline, you don’t actually have to do that now, swat it away.

Deadline notifications just became meaningless.

If you’re having to consciously stop and work out whether this deadline is the real deadline, you’re screwed.

I will spend time on my To Do tasks when I’m writing them in. Actually, no, I’ll often chuck half a thought in and then work it up into a proper task when I get home. But once that’s done, once it’s in the list, I don’t want to have to think about it until either I’m ready to do the task or it is time that I have to. Don’t make yourself have to work your list, deciding every day what’s real and what isn’t. Spend that time doing your To Dos.