To-Do List Trick

Have you ever been happy to get a cold or flu just so you could reduce your to-do list to ‘finish this bowl of soup?’ That’s one to-do list trick, but not one you can repeat often.

If you’ve found yourself dreading your to-do list, it may be time for an intervention.

How do you know you need an intervention? Well, the fact that you have the same 10 items on your list today as you did 30 days ago is one indicator.

Don’t worry if you do this most days. I’ve had these same issues.

Let me share with you one simple to-do list trick that will help. to-do list tricks

To-DO List Trick: ruthless, truthful estimating.

Try this with your current to-do list for today.

Look at each each item on your list individually. Estimate how much time the task normally takes. Be ruthless and truthful about the amount of time. Not how much time you wish it would take or what it should take, but what it normally takes for you to do that one task.

How to be truthful? As you are estimating, make sure to take into consideration wait time, prep time, and thinking time.

It may seem ridiculous to add time for thinking or waiting, but it’s not. The truth is you’ll take that time even if you don’t estimate it so why not be honest?

Instead of estimating 5 minutes to reply to that email, be reasonable. It’s going to take you 5 minutes to read the original email. Then you’ll need time to think about your answer. You may need time to look up a number or a link to something. Then you’ll need to craft the email, review and edit it. Then finally you can send it. That’s more than 5 minutes. Be real.

Create a truthful estimate for each item on today’s list.

Now the moment of truth. Add up the time estimates for today’s to-do list. How many hours will these tasks take? Is it reasonable?

More often than not, the to-do list we have for a day’s worth of work includes more than the hours we have available. This doesn’t even include time for meetings, having lunch, or a trip to the rest room. And we all know we need to have time to take care of the unexpected.


Now that you have more truthful view of your to-do list, what will you change?