Tips & Tricks: Your Last To Do = Setting Your First To Do


A few weeks ago, I realized that at the end of many days the most important thing on my to do list is still there. This is extremely frustrating. If the important things don't get done, then you really are not moving forward. I came up with a simple solution that I have found very effective.

The Trick

Before I fall asleep (with my life jacket on), I determine the one thing that I really, really need to get done the next day. (If I am feeling ambitious, I will set my entire to do list for the next day as well.) When I wake up in the morning, I follow my normal morning routine. I cook breakfast, exercise enough to get the blood moving and generally, give myself a little bit of time to wake up.

The trick is that my morning routine no longer includes checking email, listening to voicemails or even speaking with someone about work. When I start working, I work on that one important task I determined the night before, and I work on this task until it is finished.

Try this for a few days. You will likely find that you are actually able to finish your entire to do list for the day. When that big, important item is out of the way, it makes the rest of your day much less stressful.

I follow the Getting Things Done task management methodology (more on that in future posts), but this trick should be helpful regardless of how you manage your to do list.

Making It Stick

Obviously, this will not work all of the time. Your day may be filled with meetings (which is something you should try to avoid), or maybe you absolutely have to check your email. If this happens, do your best to work around these distractions. Move through them as quickly as possible, and then clear your head. Shut out all distractions, and just work until that big to do is finished.

I have also found it helps if I keep my mornings empty. I try to limit scheduled items to afternoons so that I have mornings to myself. I have the liberty of working from wherever I want, so will often finish my important task before I even leave my house for the day.

In Short

  1. Every night figure out the one thing you really should get done the next day.
  2. Wake up and clear your head. Get some breakfast and maybe some exercise.
  3. When you are ready to start work, do not open your email or check your voicemail or talk to anyone about work related items. This will keep your mind clear, making it easy to focus.
  4. Work on the important item until it is finished.
  5. Have an awesome, stress-free day!


Thanks to the Get-It-Done Guy, Stever Robbins, for covering this tip on his latest podcast!