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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

When It Comes to “To-Do” Lists, Less Is More

Dec 28, 2017 03:42PM ● By Marilee Burrell

I don’t know about you, but my master “to-do” list is about 50 pages long. Actually, I call it my “mind dump” list, because it’s where I write down everything that’s cluttering my head, without editing, just to regain some thinking space. The list of tasks I set for myself each day is much more doable.

As a professional organizer and productivity coach, I know that a common mistake people make is to create a to-do list that sets them up for failure because it is unrealistic. I advise my clients to convert their long to-do list into a short “action” list, in order to get more done.

Here’s the technique I teach them:

First, look at that master todo list and group like with like by category (e.g., self-improvement, home-related, financial.) Then, pull out the tasks or projects that you want to accomplish in the next two weeks. This is your short-term “to-do” list.

Since it includes more items than you could get to in a day, even if you were highly productive, which—just being realistic—you’re not always, parse it down further. This doesn’t mean eliminating things you have to do (although give thought to whether you can eliminate, modify, delay or delegate). It does mean redistributing the tasks so you’re only looking at a doable to-do list. Let’s rename it your “daily action” list. (Some of my clients like to call it their “daily grounding” list, since it helps bring them back on track to their primary priorities for the day). I’ve created a simple Daily Focus form that you can download here:

By intentionally limiting your todo’s, you are more likely to accomplish the items that remain on your list. Less is more!

Less is more in many other ways, too. Less stuff means less to clean and less money spent on buying and storage, so more free time and money that can be used for experiences. Less perfectionism (I’m not talking quality!) means less frustration and more productivity.

Think about it—where else do you see that less can be more?

Since 1991, Susan Lasky has been helping adults get things done, using strategies that work with the way they think. She speaks and writes on topics related to ADHD, executive function, productivity, organization, time management and work/life/self-care balance, and she runs an online action/ accountability group, the TUIT Project, at She can be reached at 914.373.4787, [email protected] or