Using a to-do list for more than just to-do’s

I have been using to-do lists to plan my days for more than 25 years and am pretty confident that my productivity would be cut in half without them. But I also use my to-do lists for more than just tasks that I need to accomplish for the day.

One of the great features of modern task management apps like Toodledo, Todoist and others is that you can schedule recurring tasks. By the way, you should always set your default view with any to-do management system where you do show any tasks that are not due in the future (i.e. show only today or overdue tasks).

You can then use these recurring tasks in a variety of ways:

  • Re-read articles – often, I come across really great articles that are either inspirational or perhaps describe a better way of working. These are often wort revisiting to get that second hit of inspiration or to remind yourself to put into action what is being described. I quite often add a recurring to-do for these articles with a “Re-read: XXX” and include the link to the article in the notes/comments field. The frequency is dependent on how important the information is but mine range from bi-weekly to monthly.
  • New vocabulary – come across a really great word lately? Perhaps some new industry jargon or emerging term? (e.g. “Guided creativity”) Then I will set a recurring, daily to-do with this new term.. just to remind me of it and to ensure that it enters my own lexicon. These typically last only a few weeks at most after which I either delete them or set them to recur monthly.
  • Quotes – the are some fantastic quotes out there. Some inspire, some motivate, some keep you grounded. I have a few of these in my to-do list set to recur periodically – ranging from bi-weekly to quarterly. For example, one of my favourite quotes that keeps me grounded is “There but for the grace of God, go I”.
  • Daily affirmations – not too dissimilar to quotes, but these are reminders for yourself.. from yourself. Give yourself a pep-talk each day with a recurring daily task.
  • Create new habits – want to form a new habit? Then a recurring daily task to remind you to do those sit-ups, go for a jog, etc can be really useful. First, it prevents the activity from sipping your mind; and second, you have to complete it in the app to clear it.. surely you wouldn’t just clear it without doing it? Right?
  • Stop bad habits – if you can form new habits, then you can also remind yourself to stop some bad ones.

I have a separate category in my to-do list for these sorts of tasks called “Life” and so they appear in a different colour in my list and can separate them from “Work” and “Personal” (my only three categories).

My ritual each morning is to go through my to-do list for the day and make sure that it only includes the tasks that I will aim to accomplish that day. I reschedule anything that isn’t possible (no point in having it in the list for that day) and also clear down these recurring “Life” reminders. You don’t need to spend more than a second on them.. but you see them and that’s what matters.

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