How To Tweak Your To-Dos: 5 Tips For Better Task Lists

by ToriDeaux on July 26, 2007

In my quest for the perfect productivity system, I’ve run across a number of interesting to-do list ideas. They deserve a better fate than their current role as cyber dust-catchers on my own todo list… So now, for your tweaking pleasure, I present:

The To-Do Tweaks Collection

Tweak One:
The Sacred To-Do List

Your primary to-do list should be held sacred; include only the most worthy of tasks.

Don’t add tasks just to fill in all the blanks on your list. Each item should specifically advance your goals, meet a need, or give you pleasure. Leave off all of those “ought to do” items that you really couldn’t care less about, and don’t impact your life significantly. You probably wont do them anyway, so why give yourself the guilt over it? And if you do tackle them simply because they are on your list, they’re taking your time and attention away from what really matters.

So hold your task list sacred; resist the urge sully it with filler and fluff.

A Hat Tip to Productivity501

Tweak Two:
The Done-Did List

Left to their own devices, to-do lists quickly become daunting never-ending demands of more-more-more. It’s enough to squash any budding sense of accomplishment you may be developing.

So take the time to note your daily successes. Before starting a new to-do list, make a list of what you’ve already accomplished. Include completed items from your previous list, any items you worked on, and anything you did that *wasn’t* on the original list. (It may not be necessary to do this on a whole separate list.. I just make marks on the previous todo list, and add anything else I took care of, and make a few notes about partial accomplishments)

Credit: My own productivity gurus.
They so rock.

Tweak Three:
Prioritize Pleasure

Each day, list a luxury task that is just for fun, things like:

  • Spend an hour playing with the dog.
  • Take a long bath with luxury bath salts.
  • Lay in the sun
  • Listen to music with full attention.
  • Write a love poem to the dustbunnies under the bed
  • Practice hoops in the nearby park
  • Stare at the stars and look for UFOs

Make it an item you wouldn’t necessarily make time for otherwise, something that increases your pleasure, advances your goals of well being, something that makes you smile. You’ll be surprised what a difference this makes in your attitude towards your to-do list, and your life.

Credit: My own productivity gurus
I told you they rock!

Tweak Four:
The Habits List

Workouts, vitamins, cleaning off the desk, meditation — They’re definitely tasks, we definitely need reminders, but they really don’t belong on the regular to-do list.

I’ve always instinctively separated them, and Mark Shead of Productivity501 explains why my instinct was a good idea. Listing habits on the primary to-do list clutters it up, de-emphasizes the most important tasks, puts a focus on daily results rather than lifestyle results (which is what habits are about) and can cause discouragement if a day is especially productive work wise, but there wasn’t time to work out.

He suggests a completely separate list, and makes a really pretty form available to his RSS subscribers. You’ll also find a wealth of habit-list tips from him here and here.

Credit goes to both my own gurus and Productivity501

Tweak Five:
The Could-Do List

Sometimes the simplest tweaks are the best. Ready for this one? It’s a simple word change in your list title:

Cross out “To-Do” and pencil in “Could-Do”. The shift in attitude from that single word opens the horizons of your day, releases the sense of pressure and obligation, and gives a feeling of freedom of choice that both relaxes and energizes. For more thoughts on this, see the article on Positive Sharing at the link below. Seriously cool stuff.

Credit to Hilda Carroll via
Alexander Kjerulf at Positive Sharing

And yes, I’ve got more tips waiting in the wings ( I’m serious about my productivity collection! ) but I didn’t want to overwhelm you ( or me) with too many at once.

So stay tuned for the rest tomorrow, plus a peek at my own new task list experiments.


MindTweak: Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. Paul J. Meyer


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jackie 07.31.07 at 2:05 pm

Being productive helps one feel successful in life. With success, a positive attitude will surely follow. Thanks for these brilliant tweaks!!

2 M.T. 07.31.07 at 10:12 pm

Very true, Ms.Jackie…. Tracking my successes did more for my confidence than anything else I’d ever tried. Funny how good it feels when we realize we’re more useful in life than we ever realized, eh?

3 Jackie 08.01.07 at 12:40 pm

Yes, oh so very true. Aside from bad days, there is a way to feel good most of the time: keeping successes in the foreground of our memories will help.