Does Your To-Do List Fail You?

Note: This post is written by Sander Touw

Sometimes our to-do lists fail us miserably. They become cluttered with all sorts of small tasks. These pesky tasks drain our focus and energy, and before you know it you have no time or energy left for your most important tasks.

So how to make a to-do list that fits your needs?

To-Do List: Everything That Comes Your Way or Your MITs?

Each person has a different approach to how the best to-do list looks. For some, the to-do list contains all to-do’s for that day, including sudden emergencies or other, unexpected activities. For some, their to-do lists focus solely on their MITs. MIT stands for Most Important Task. But what approach is best for you? Luckily, deep inside, you already know.

You know yourself, you’re either an early bird or a night owl. Which one are you? Do you love to get to work in the early morning with a freshly brewed cup of coffee? Or do you prefer the quiet serenity of the evening or early night to get your creativity flowing?

If you are more productive in the morning, you might want to stick to the MITs approach. In this way you can complete all your most important to-do’s early in the morning. For me, the opposite is true, I am more creative in the evening and beginning of the night. As such, I don’t really mind starting with some smaller tasks to create some momentum.

But then another enemy rears its head: Procrastination.

How Your To-Do List Can Help You Deal with Procrastination

For most of us, procrastination is a huge obstacle. We can manage our time and our energy, but sometimes starting is the hardest part. Our habit to procrastinate on challenging tasks can create difficult situations. How many times have you delayed starting on a project, only to find yourself later on in a stressful situation, fighting a closing deadline?

Procrastination is the enemy here. Overcoming procrastination is a topic which is too broad to completely cover in this blog post. Nonetheless let’s have a quick look at how procrastination works.

The opposite of procrastination is execution. In order to start working on a task we need to have motivation. We either need to feel something pull or push to get moving. We feel the push to work each day, because we have bills to pay. And we are pulled towards things we like, we want a brand new car, so we work and save money. Procrastination can be overcome with the right incentive or motivation, discipline and a solid system.

The system is your to-do list.

Creating the Best To-Do List for You

1. Decide whether you are a morning person or an evening person.

In order to create the to-do list that works for you, take a step back and decide when you are most productive. Is it during the mornings or early evening? 

This is crucial if you want to overcome procrastination and create a to-do list that won’t fail you.

2. Decide whether you feel confident by completing your MITs early or later in the day (dependent upon when you are most creative).

If you are most creative and productive in the morning, work on your Most Important Tasks in the morning then. If you feel more productive in the evening, try doing your less important tasks first and work towards the evening on your more demanding tasks.

I like to have meetings and other appointments in the morning, so I can work uninterrupted in the afternoon and early evening. This helps to reach a state of flow and gets that creative juice flowing.

3. Create your to-do list, set strict deadlines and stick to the plan.

So you have decided what works best for you. Now the final obstacle: creating your to-do list.

As a rule of thumb; don’t try to do too many things in a day. It’s best to do a few important things very good. You can probably fill your entire workweek with busy work or other unimportant tasks, but that’s not effective.

If you are new to time management and personal productivity, I suggest the 1-3-5 rule.

The 1-3-5 rule is all about creating a to-do list that fits your style. This rule states that you should pick one large task, three medium tasks and five smaller tasks to complete per day. Make sure the tasks you have selected are the most important things you need to complete during the day and then get going. Be sure to reward yourself everyday you complete your selected tasks.


Your to-do list doesn’t have to fail you. It all depends upon whether you are more creative in the morning or evening. Try to schedule your work around the times when you feel most productive. Then select a maximum of 9 tasks, one large, three medium and five smaller tasks. Are these tasks your most important tasks for today? Good.

Give yourself a small reward every day you have completed your selected tasks. Keep procrastination at bay and before you know it you will have doubled your productivity!

Sander Touw is the main writer of ProductivityManagement, where you can read about time management methods, productive habits and other productivity related topics.


  1. Great point about deciding on your MIT for the day. I have found that if I don’t get my big goal accomplished before 11am, it usually doesn’t happen.

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