To Do listAbout 30 years ago when I designed the Taylor Planner, I decided to have a week at a glance planner with all seven days showing and a weekly To Do list instead of a To Do list for each day. I had no survey data or other statistics to back me up. I just felt it was unrealistic to have a list of “things to do today” when “today” might end up taking the form of a full-day meeting, travel, project or whatever. It would simply mean you were forever copying things over to another day. If something had to be done on a specific day, I felt it should be scheduled in the appropriate time slot anyway.

Then, about 15 years later Leadership Journal surveyed 580 pastors and discovered that those who keep weekly To Do lists work fewer hours than those who keep daily To Do lists. It’s believed that those using “Things to do today” lists try to get everything done before they call it quits for the day, thus extending their work day.

Keeping a weekly To Do list allows time to identify the more important items since priorities do change. It frees you from frantically trying to empty an overwhelming To Do list. In the latter case you have a tendency to get rid of those urgent items and the quick and easy ones just to make the list shorter. Sometimes the last items to be completed on a list are the most important ones.

Of course that’s the reason I recommend that you never relegate the really important items to a To Do list in the first place. Instead, they should be scheduled in specific time slots as “meetings with yourself” to get them done.

There’s a difference between what should be done and what must be done. Keep the “shoulds” on a To Do list but move the “musts” to specific time slots in your planner.

The 80-20 rule applies to “To Do” lists as well. 80% of the items collectively contribute only 20% of the results. If you’re in doubt about whether something should be scheduled or put on a To Do list, ask yourself, “What would be the consequences of not getting this done?” If the answer is “Very little,” add it to your To Do list. But the important items should always be scheduled.

It’s best to record your To Do list in your planner, whether the planner is paper or electronic. Don’t use a separate pad or sheet of paper. You could easily misplace a separate To Do list. You might also spend time copying over some of the items.

There’s the added advantage of seeing what you did each week since the crossed-off items remain intact. The visual sign of making progress is also motivational.