We need to talk about your to-do list.
Specifically, we need to talk about how many items are on your to-do list. There are the important things, like reminders about work projects or can’t-afford-to-forget personal or family tasks. But there are also due dates for bills, family events, and even random tasks like picking up the dry cleaning.
A lot of us treat our to-do list as more of what David Allen of Getting Things Done would call the “someday/maybe” list—things we’d love to get done someday if maybe we ever find the time. The problem with this catchall approach to tasks is that there is no way to convey any sense of importance. All tasks look equal. So how do you fix it?
The solution is a little counter-intuitive: Take the really important stuff off your to-do list. Put the most important stuff where it’ll be seen, remembered, and accomplished—put it on your calendar.
Once a day or once a week, look at your to-do list, decide what’s important, and schedule those tasks. We know from research in behavioral economics that just thinking about the time and location you will work on something makes it much more likely you’ll accomplish it. So, by putting your important tasks on your calendar, you are one step closer to completing them.