How To Get More Done With A Smaller To-Do List

So you’ve made plans for the year, maybe even mapped out the what’s, when’s and how’s of your 2019 business model, yet despite all of the plans being in place, you’re struggling turn them into action.

Whilst chatting with a friend and fellow entrepreneur, he mentioned his never ending, forever lengthening to-do list and it took me right back to 2017 when I was drowning under the weight of my to-do lists.

It seemed like there was no way out of it, other than to work more hours and remove any semblance of a life. 

But I was wrong, there was a way out of it and that was to write shorter to-do lists, stick with me because I know you’re rolling your eyes thinking “well obviously shorter to-do lists are easier to get through - but there’s no way I can do less!”

Long lists are paralysing, they stifle productivity and make you feel inadequate. They are the simple facts. 

So here’s my definitive guide to less things on your list, more things getting done;

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How To Shorten Your To-Do List Step One - Seven Things

7 things maximum - yep I know you’re going to tell me that you have more things that that to get done in a day, but let me tell you, if you are trying to cram more things into a day than you can currently achieve, then you’re already onto a losing streak. So from now on, 7 things, maximum. 

How To Shorten Your To-Do List Step Two - Break It Down

Break down the to-do list into 3 categories; title them however you wish, but along the lines of; big, medium, little or Urgent, Priority, Helpful or indeed whatever works for you. However, these sub categories have a purpose, and should break your list down into 1 x Urgent, 3 x Priority and 3 x Helpful. 

There should NEVER be more than one Urgent thing on your list per day. Not everything that you think is urgent, actually is, and this new way of making daily task lists will help you see that. Urgent means that if the task was not completed on that given day you/others would be detrimentally affected. 

How To Shorten Your To-Do List Step Three - Definition Baby

Now you have your categories, you need to define them. To give you a little guidance I’ve detailed how i define my three categories;


  • Has a limited time frame attached to it that is within the following 24 hours.

  • Not completing it will have detrimental affect on myself, my business, my bank account, my clients

Examples include: Tax Bills, governmental requirements, payments, client deadlines, scheduling of time sensitive content, meetings, conference calls


  • Has a limited time frame attached to it that is within the following 48-72 hours

  • May have a negative impact on myself or my business

  • Will have a positive affect once completed

Examples include; timely/trend pieces, responding to requests from potential clients, completing pitches, monthly commitments such as reports, content plans.


  • Has a no time frame attached to it - but is important enough to make it on to the list in the first place

  • Will have a positive affect once completed but no definitive negative impact if not completed

  • Has value to you as an individual outside the remits of your clients/business expectations

Examples include; Clearing your inbox, responding to non time sensitive emails, researching future content.

Sound impossible? Well, it’s not, but it is a little uncomfortable for a while whilst you get into the groove with it. , However, think of it like this; you only have so many hours in the day, and you’re only going to get a finite number of things done. Forcing yourself to follower a shorter more efficient list means the things you accomplish will be the things you chose to do—rather than what happened to get done.

Of course, this can be flexible. If you spend much of your day in meetings, for example, you might need to revise this down a bit. If your position is one where each day brings lots of unexpected tasks, you might try leaving one medium and two small tasks blank in preparation for the last-minute requests from your boss.

If you’re still not convinced try something for me this week, each day count up the things that you added to your usual To-Do list, and then count the number of things that you actually achieved. Then at the end of the week count up how many things on the list, and how many you achieved. If there is a gaping chasm between them, then something isn’t working.

7 things a day = 35 things a week = 140 things in a 4 week month.

I guarantee you are getting less accomplished than that how you are currently working. Remember the point is, prioritisation works.

Try it and let me know how you get on!