The Anatomy of the Perfect To-Do List

I've been making to-do lists for as long as I can remember- as far back as at least ninth grade (this means that I have always been slightly too anal and too busy, apparently). And I must say, over the years I've basically perfected the art. Sure, anyone can slap down a some basic chores on a sheet of paper, but can they use it as a tool to motivate? Boost self-esteem? Inspire? Conquer all tasks? I think not. I'm here to help (as always).

[check. check. check. done.]

Rules of the perfect to-do list:

1. Include at least a 4:1 ratio of enjoyable versus less-fun items ("I have to reseed the grass today, therefore an hour yoga class is fair." "Oh, the backyard needs to be massively cleaned? This calls for a Blizzard.")
2. Over-estimate the time it takes to complete each less-than-riveting task so that when you finish early you can feel accomplished and efficient ("Light bulb changing in five minutes instead of fifteen? My awesomeness is palpable.")

3. Never feel obligated to complete the list in order ("Since I have to finish this book today I better read first...")
4. Include at least two items you have already done for quick deletion or check off ("I would have absolutely put the dishes and laundry on my list if I had made it a half hour ago...")
5. Delete (or throw out) list every night and start over every morning ("Two items left? I do not need this crap hanging over my head. Click.")

6. When lists get longer than 15 items, subgroups must exist (work, chores, exercise, leisure, familial obligations, etc...)

Now go get some shit done.


  1. I'm a fan of lists. I always put on things that I've already done just for the satisfaction of crossing them off :)

  2. This is great. I use the reminders app on my iPad for to-do lists. I used it a lot while at Semester at Sea because it was hard keeping track of the various assignments from South Africa and abroad. Except sometimes I'm too lazy to MAKE the list. Awkward...

  3. My only requirement for to-do lists (or lists of any kind, really) is that I must be able to cross things off. That's my favorite part! My grocery list is basically a big scribble by the time I'm in line for the check-out!

  4. haha i like this! i have sooo many lists laying around my house it is ridiculous.... and of course they each have about 2 of 15 checked off. :) i like the idea of over-estimating time and also throwing things on the list that i've already done or are quick to complete! That will definitely make it seem less painful! haha