A Quick Trick to Make Your To-Do List Less Overwhelming

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I've always been one of those people who's incalculably satisfied by crossing a to-do off my list. I use the Things app on mobile and desktop to keep track of tasks in my personal and freelance life, and the Wunderlist app on mobile and desktop for tasks for my full-time job. And I'm super motivated to organize my day, and evening, around being able to tap or click any of those tasks into oblivion.

But if you're a productivity addict like me, you might sometimes find your to-do list growing stress-inducingly long, whereby you feel like more things are getting added to the list than are being Xed off. There are many reasons why that might be — perhaps you're making your tasks too granular (1. create project outline, 2. edit project outline, 3. submit project outline for approval), or aren't using an effective triage system (I love how Things categorizes tasks into Now, Next, Scheduled, and Someday).

Anyhow, here's a tip for cutting out at least some of the potential chaff on your to-do list.

Don't add anything to your to-do list that a) has a conspicuous visual reminder AND b) is not time-sensitive.

I'll give you a few examples:

  • That check you need to deposit at the ATM if your mobile banking app's deposit function isn't working for some reason (am I the only one who has that issue frequently with the Chase app?). Just keep the check in your wallet folded in a way that you'll see it easily, and don't bother adding the errand to your to-do list—as long as it's not money you need ASAP.
  • A return you need to take to a store, if it's sitting in its bag or box with the receipt inside or in your wallet in a noticeable place (by your front door, under your desk). Just be mindful of any time-sensitive return policies. 
  • Edits you need to make to a document that's somewhere super visible in your workspace, whether on your physical desktop or digital desktop, especially if there's no short-term hard deadline.

Basically, don't double-up on your cues to get something done. If there's a clear indicator that already exists to remind you to do something, don't stress yourself out by also adding it to an already hefty to-do list.