Personal To-Dos in Work List?

Mar 13, 2018

A lot of people ask me “should I put personal items along with my work items on my single MYN/1MTD task list, or should I separate them into two lists”?

It Depends, but Yes!

This is an individual decision, but I generally do encourage mixing business and personal items on the same list, to a degree. It’s often the only way to accomplish things. For example, many personal calls can and must be made during the day at work because the office hours of those you are calling stops at 5:00, like a dentist office, a car shop, and so on.

Also, critical personal items that come up on short notice should go into your Critical Now list for today even at work. For example, your babysitter for tonight cancels at noon and you need to find another.

Similarly, you might want to think ahead about your ride home from work to do some errands. Listing those commute-back errands on your main list helps you prep for that. So yes, seeing some of those along with your other important work items helps you get them done.

What About a Separate List?

You might think why not just put those on a separate “personal” list? Isn’t your work list what you should work on while at work, shouldn’t you make that a priority?

Well, the urgency zones in the MYN and 1MTD systems take care of priority. If most work things on your list are more important than the personal ones, you’ll raise those to the top. But if attending to a personal item during the day becomes more critical than other work items, it deserves to be at the top of your critical list.

Also, unless you have a large number of personal items to do from work every day, you won’t look at a separate personal list throughout the workday—and you’ll miss those items that need attention during the day. It’s always better to have one list to refer to throughout the day.

Separate Weekend Chores

The key when doing this, though, is to not overload the workday list with all your personal items, especially weekend chore items and the like—things you don’t need to think about during the workday. Those, yes, keep separate and refer to them on Saturday morning. I use OneNote to list and plan out weekend projects and similar. But if you need to stop at Home Depot for a home project item on your way home from work, move just that item to your main daily list, not the whole project plan. So, only put things on the workday list that you might need to do or plan from the perch of your workday.

A Home-Based Business is Different

Now, if you own your own home-based business, and that’s your main work activity and location, and so during the day you constantly intermingle home and business activities, then absolutely, list everything in your single list: all personal and work items. There’s no reason not to mix the whole list if you consistently mix the time spent on them. Just prioritize them right using the urgency zones and their relative positions within those zones.

Keep to Limits

But there are limits because MYN and 1MTD users have numerical maximums for the top two urgency zones: five items max in the Critical Now section and 20 items max in the opportunity now section. You should stick with those limits. I talk about ways to keep your to-do list short here and here, but one way applicable to personal items is to combine multiple entries that are done together into a single task entry. For example, you wouldn’t want to put all the individual items of your grocery list onto your MYN or 1MTD task list, doing that would overwhelm the list and not be helpful. Rather, I would put one item in the list that says Go Grocery Shopping After Work. Then put the individual grocery shopping items in the notes section of that task. Perhaps you can see that notes section in the store in a mobile task app. If not, then transfer or print it to a paper grocery list that you can carry into the store.

OneNote as a Shopping List Tool

However, for shopping lists, the best solution is to use OneNote—OneNote is fantastic for such lists. I use it daily on my iPhone and it works great. It’s easy to add to through the day as you think of things, and it’s easy to take it with you to the store where you can check off items in the store as you put them in the cart. Best of all it’s easy to restudy previously checked-off items from your previous trips to see if you need to restock them. So you’ll still have an entry on your work list that says Go Grocery Shopping After Work but you’ll use OneNote to list the actual items. I have a new video on how to use OneNote for shopping lists here.


As you see, I think it’s fine to put some, or all, of your personal to-do’s on your single workplace task list, as appropriate for your situation. Especially if they are things you’ll need to attend to during the workday. A single list is always the best way to prioritize and manage urgencies throughout the day.

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16 Responses to Personal To-Dos in Work List?

  1. Niklas says:

    I’ve been putting personal items on my work MYN list for years. I mark them as “private” items in Outlook, and have configured the MYN To-Do Bar to (a) display private items in gray text (work items are in black text) and (b) to sort them below the work items within each urgency zone (basically, sort by priority then by private then by start date). That way I get a clear visual distinction between work and personal items.

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Niklas, that’s a great solution! It never occurred to me that you could use the “private” setting as a formatting rule. What a great approach, better than categories!
      For those that don’t know, you mark a task private by opening up the task and clicking on the lock symbol near the right end of the ribbon:


      The Outlook “official” use of private is to hide the task from others in case you are sharing your task list with other Outlook users. But what Niklas is doing is pretty cool–he’s using it as a trigger in conditional formatting rules in the MYN tasks view. Nice! Michael

    • Jill says:

      Thank you. This has inspired me. I’m going to keep playing with this but for now, I am adding private tasks but I am going back and forth with changing the to do bar view to either include or exclude private. That isn’t perfect but I have so many personal tasks that it was cluttering my mind while I was focusing on work stuff. Maybe I’ll find a way to just filter out the low and now but keep the high visible.

      Anyways, thanks for the idea!

  2. Candice says:

    Michael, is there a way to do what Niklas is doing in Toodledo?

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Candice. Unfortunately, no. Best you can do is create and assign a Personal folder , and then refer the folder column to track personal tasks. You can sort on folders too. Michael

      • Candice says:

        That sounds like a good enough plan. Much thanks, Michael!

        • Niklas says:

          Candice, in Toodledo I would use contexts for that. Just define a “Work” and/or a “Personal” context and set them on tasks. Then you can either use the context-specific views or sort by context (e.g. sort by Priority then by Context then by Start Date).

          • Candice says:

            Oh brilliant, Niklas! I love that idea! Thank you ever so much for your input here. *she rushes to add contexts to her tasks* 🙂

        • Charlene says:

          In Toodledo, I use the Context field to separate tasks. I personally find it’s an easier field to use than Folder, but YMMV.

          • Michael Linenberger says:

            Candice, true, you can use either Folders or Context. My habit has been Folders for things like this, but the nice thing about context is that the definition of “Context” corresponds with GTD ideals, if you follow those. Maybe others, who have used Contexts in TD, see other advantages of that particular field?

          • Charlene says:

            In Toodledo, the Tasks section can use Contexts and/or Folders. The Notes section uses only Folders. Since I use different categories for tasks and notes, I find having separate drop-down menus to choose from easier.

  3. Candice says:

    Michael, I like to have all these various options in my back pocket as one can play around and see what suits your particular situation best.

  4. Bartosz says:

    I keep both on my Now Tasks List and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    For me the idea behind MYN is this: handle urgency, do your most important work and still fit in taks related to your goals.

    You can’t handle urgency well if you “ignore” personal stuff on your list. Your mind will still keep track of it and you wouldn’t be 100% focused.

  5. Patrick M. Greene says:

    Having a to-do list is a very good sign of discipline. The only factor I’m struggling is that, I know what needs to be done first and what or which can completed in a short amount of time, but sometimes we have this gut feel that we want to work with the one that doesn’t have the points I had mentioned above in order for us to be productive and to check easy on our checklist. Great advice, I will try it.

  6. Wayne says:

    How do you use “OneNote to list and plan out weekend projects? Do you use it like you do for shopping lists?

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