The Effective To Do List has made my work life much more effective.

But before I explain how it works, I need to comment that there has been significant debate as to whether To Do Lists work; Richard Branson is an advocate for example but Kevin Kruse the productivity expert isn’t, he believes in scheduling.

I believe in a bit of both.

Welcome the Effective To Do List.

How it works

It’s really simple and so effective.

The system works in three simple steps:

  1. Compiling a To Do List into four categories
  2. Straight away transferring items from the To Do List into your calendar
  3. Once in calendar, removing item from To Do list

So everytime you move items from the To Do into your calendar, your To Do list is wiped clean.


  1. The four categories Immediately identify which jobs need to take priority
  2. It takes away the psychological stress of a long to do list. By placing items from the list into your work calendar you will shift your mind set into a more positive place.
  3. If you commit to the process you will remove all those niggly things that don’t seem to go away..

The To Do List

Firstly, always keep a note pad handy to jot down all your To Do Items.

Then split your To Do list into four sections:

High Impact – Items that will get you the results, make you the money, get the Clients etc etc etc This is the most powerful category but normally the one that is ignored because we procrastinate and do the easier stuff first.

Time Limit Items- Items that need to be done semi urgently because of deadlines.

Maintenance – jobs that are on-going and never go away. They don’t necessarily deliver massive results but are a necessary evil. Meetings, checking e-mails, phone calls, administration, report writing, appraisals etc. etc.

Low Impact – Niggly items that have no urgency or importance but need to be addressed at some point.

Step 1

On a Friday afternoon, update the To Do List.  This should take 15 to 30 minutes. Longer for the first time.

Step 2

Put all Important and High Impact into Calendar first, probably for the following week, timings as appropriate.

Remove items from the To Do List.

Try and start every day with a Most Important Task (MIT) first thing from the High Impact items.

Step 3

Put all Maintenance Items into Calendar.

You may do this week by week or you may plan a year ahead by scheduling specific items at the same time every week or every day on an on-going basis.

For example – catch up meeting with your direct line reports on a Tuesday morning. One hour each.

E-mail catch up twice a day every day at 12 PM and 4 PM for 20 minutes a time.

MIT every morning from 9 to 11 am.

Step 4

Put all Low Impact Items into calendar however far advance in the calendar they need to be; be it next week or next month.

Then remove from the To Do List.

I firmly believe it’s the annoying items that hang round our minds (and To Do Lists) that cause the anxiety regardless of them being low priority.

But obviously when it comes to that time to do them, you must do them!


You need some form of To Do List to organise your thoughts, I believe this is vital. It helps makes sense of what needs to be done.

However, there needs to be action also (Richard Branson’s point).

Very often To Do lists are drawn up and the easy things are tackled and crossed off, but the items that are going to produce the results are ignored or delayed or the annoying items remain and never get done. Making us feel frustrated.

This method is really effective, but the trick is to honour your diary. If you’ve scheduled to do it. Do it. Otherwise it won’t work.

For further reading, see Richard Branson’s and Kevin Kruse’s comments on this topic:

Look out for my next post on Calendar Management.



Click here for a copy of my free e-book: The Happiness Revolution: Instant Happiness Volume. In the book I outline 13 ways to instantly improve your mood, now!


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