Stephen Lindberg

Product Designer @ Iterable

31 January 2021

The Perfect To-Do List

The to-do list is an indispensable part of my productivity cycle. Mostly it helps me build momentum and have a better sense of satisfaction at the end of the day, helping to reaffirm what I’ve accomplished. Sometimes, I get into a rut and I won’t feel like anything is getting done. There are some items that are perpetually on my list, and my motivation diminishes.

A strategy I’ve been using to tackle these ruts is to create a “perfect day” to-do list when I have a day with minimal responsibilities. This reflects my philosophy of taking leisure time seriously. Instead of writing down the chores I need to get done, I write a hour-by-hour to-do list of all the fun things I am going to do that day. That’s the only rule: every item has to be something I will really enjoy. I write this list the night before, because the morning usually brings a certain anxiety and I’ll end up writing all the things I “should” be doing instead of the things that are fun. The list might look like this:

  • 08:00 Feed the cats, make coffee, read
  • 09:00 Eat breakfast
  • 10:00 Go outside for a walk (if rain, do stretches)
  • 10:30 Draw
  • 11:30 Listen to music
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • and so on…

Again, the most important thing is that the list has no chores. Of course, I will probably do a few chores in-between these fun things, but just small ones that I tend to overlook during the week. I’ll try to get bigger chores done the day before (for me, that’s typically Saturday). Usually if I have a day off with fewer chores and no plan, I’ll tend to spend a lot of time inside, playing video games or maybe reading too many things online. The benefit of the list is that I can objectively plan out a day that has a good balance between screen-related activities and activities that will get me outside and moving my body. I try to stick to the list as much as possible so that I can cross items off and review my “perfect day” after dinner, and start the new week feeling fresh and energized.

To-do lists shouldn’t be relegated to our work alone. So if you’re stuck in a rut, try re-framing your list around all the fun things instead of your chores and make your list as joyful as possible. See ya!