The New Rules of Work: How To Master Your To-Do List

In this EIGHT PART SERIES we chronicle the new ways to NAVIGATE YOUR CAREER in the MODERN WORKPLACE. This week we’re discussing MASTERING YOUR TO-DO LIST …


If you’re sick of tackling the same stale to-do lists every day—and coming up short—here are some key strategies to change all that.

Keep a single master to-do list for work

Let’s be honest: if you wanted to get a complete view of all the tasks you had to get done for work right now, chances are you couldn’t find it all on a single list. Instead, you probably have a few Post-its here, a saved draft in your email there, notes jotted in stickies on your com­puter, and maybe a checklist app or two on your phone, right? But if the goal is to actually get everything done, having a single place for your work-related tasks is a must.

Follow the 1-3-5 rule

Here’s the gist: on any given day, assume that you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things, and narrow down your to-do list to those nine items. Like it or not, you have only so many hours in the day, and the reality is that you’re going to get only a finite number of things done. Forcing yourself to prioritise by creating 1-3-5 lists means the things you accomplish will be the things you chose to do—rather than those that happened to get done.

Complete one significant task before lunch (your least favourite one, if possible)

Okay, this one can be tough, but it works. Take one of your big or me­dium tasks and tackle it first thing in the morning, even before checking email, if you can. Trust us, there’s no better feeling than crossing off a major task before lunch.

Block your calendar

If you find that you always overestimate how much you can get done in a day, try allocating time for each of your to-dos on your calendar, just like you would a meeting. Once you’ve defined the tasks on your to-do list, try scheduling them, blocking off the appropriate amount of time for each.

Learn to say no

Managing your time more efficiently is not only about organising your to-do list. It’s also about learning to think differently about the value of your time. Often, this mind shift means knowing what not to do and what to stop doing. Saying no, giving yourself boundaries, and under­standing whether all the tasks on your to-do list are really necessary or important can make a huge difference in your productivity and your happiness.

Copyright © 2017 by Million Things LLC. Extracted from THE NEW RULES OF WORK by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew. Published by Orion Spring at £14.99 in paperback. Also available in audio and ebook.

Whether you are starting out in your career, looking to advance or navigating a mid-career shift, this eight part series will provide you with the tips and advice you need to thrive in the new world of work.

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