The Primary Purpose of a To-Do List Isn’t to Get Everything Done

Apr 8, 2011

The primary purpose of a to-do list isn’t to get everything done. No, the primary purpose of a to-do list is to set your mind at ease that you know what your responsibilities are. That’s the main reason you should keep one.

A close second is that is this: a to-do list helps prevent your most urgent things from slipping through the cracks—it prevents you from dropping any major balls. That’s because any good to-do list allows you to emphasize your highest priority items.

No, the hope of getting everything done should be the last purpose of a to-do list. Why is it in last place? Because you intuitively know you’ll never do it all—there’s just too much going on these days. And so beating yourself up when you can’t only leads to frustration, and even possibly tossing out the list altogether; and that’s no good.

So get realistic about the functions of a to-do list and why you are using one. Using it as a tool to clearly see what you owe to who and when, and as a way to prioritize what you do now—that’s it’s highest function. It will make your work life much more enjoyable if you do not think you need to do it all.

That’s why the MYN approach to to-do lists works so well. It provides a laser focus on urgent items (your Critical Now), but it gives you a way to view the next-level items easily (Opportunity Now). And then those many many things you’d like to do but you know may not get to for a while? Those are managed in the Over the Horizon list that you keep out of your main focus, in a place where they do not distract and overwhelm you.

So start using the MYN system today.


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3 Responses to The Primary Purpose of a To-Do List Isn’t to Get Everything Done

  1. Wolfgang says:

    As simple as this idea is the more important it is. because I know people who always want to do everything on their list. And so they never think about priorities and work all the days on the wrong tasks…Thanks to you for bringing it to the point!

  2. Herbert says:

    Think about it, those who are in the corporate world who’d always want to finish every single one at their to-do list. I mean, I always, but sometimes we tend to not give the finest and/or our great productivity suffers as we tend to complete them all in a day. What’s worst is days and weeks goes by (not to mention month(s)) that we didn’t even managed to finish at least one of it. So, sometimes I tend to just focus on one thing in a day, if I don’t even get to finish it, at least I’m almost done with one on that dreaded checklist than not having to X-mark at least one in months!

  3. neha says:

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