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To Do or Not to Do?

Over the past few weeks I have been experimenting with a to-do list makeover after reading this article, talking about a glut of tools claiming to make us all into taskmasters. We almost never master our tasks. Coincidentally I’ve also got to watch a video of a famous photographer Peter McKinnon sharing his new method of creating a to-do list on a notepad for 30 days and how it changed his life. So I decided to try this method!


It is simple. I bought a small pocket-size spiral notebook and wrote 3 to 8 tasks per page per day, leaving the page open on my desk or wherever I see it throughout the day. The tasks range from things that I need to do (bite size) to things I want to be more aware of, such as 3 minutes of breathing deeply and closing my eyes. The key has been that I would write down ‘only’ things that I think I can actually do. Even though I wanted to write a bigger and ambitious task, I kept it very small and minimal. Another important thing I made sure of was that I write some of the tasks for the next day a day in advance so that I don’t start the day with an empty page even if it is simply writing a date and day. One my permanent list of every day is to write what to do tomorrow.

I realized the power of simple tactile writing on paper. If there is anyone who experiments with task apps and to-do list applications on a device, it is me. However, it always seems not to work in the long term or that my to-do lists always seem to end up in a stalemate for weeks without getting anywhere, or I lose track of my system.

Strangely but surely, an act of crossing a line over a task with a pen gives me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment every time. Perhaps we don’t need a complicated system to keep the momentum going, but just a good old pen and paper. I do like a notebook better than post-its or loose paper as I find that it is more organized.

To-do lists don’t always have to have tasks. They can have a direction that you want to take throughout the day. On my day off last Sunday I wrote

1. Take a full restful day and take it easy!

2. Practice the Franck piano quintet for an hour and half

3. Create a list for Monday

4. Review 15 Spanish words from yesterday

5. Do one 5-minute meditation app

What kind of to-do list system has been successful for you? Please share it with me!


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