Evolution of The Daily To-Do List

It’s kind of interesting to look back on this blog and see the ways in which I’ve kept myself organized.

Everybody has their own personal preference when it comes to organization, and I thought I’d take a quick analysis on the evolution of my daily to-do list:


I was still in college this year, and my tablet PC was with me pretty much every step I took. I opted to keep all my tasks on the tablet using Microsoft OneNote (the most underrated piece of software on the planet) and my desktop:

As you can see all my tasks were physically displayed on the desktop of the computer, and I could edit/drag those boxes with ease.


Around this time I started realizing that having to open my laptop to view my to-do list was not the most convenient thing, so I decided to go more low tech and use plain old sticky notes:

I would generally start with one sticky note, then start “chaining” them as the list got bigger. I’d say this method was pretty effective since you can carry them anywhere and edit them with ease.


Around this time I realized the sticky notes were too small to write larger tasks, so I stayed low tech but upgraded to full sized sheets of paper:

Piece of paper with my tasks on it…basic and works very well.


After a while I realized while I was getting my tasks done, I wasn’t sure how much time they’d taken me. In fact I wasn’t sure if I was even getting at least a full 8 hours of work in per day.

Solution: The ancillary to-do list tracking sheet:

I would make this sheet everyday in addition to the to-do list, so I would have two pieces of paper on my desk at all times. I would record the hour, what I did during that hour and the dollar value that work brought in.

After a while I removed the dollar value column since most work I do doesn’t bring in money itself, but helps make money down the road.

This tracking sheet worked extremely well since it made me self conscious about how much work I was actually completing per day. If I was slacking off, I could clearly see it.


So the to-do list plus tracking sheet seemed to be a great combination for me, then one day I got the brilliant idea of combining the two sheets. I don’t know why I was messing around with two separate sheets per day when I could just as easily combine the two. So now I have something on my desk everyday that looks like:

Top column: Date, daily goals (if any), random reminders.
Right column: Daily events and times, hourly work tracking.
Bottom footer: Daily summary, income earned.

(updated 10-08-2009)

The 2008 formatting was very successful and I still use it till this day, however there was one problem: With so much work to do every day, I’d get overwhelmed and scatter-brained about the work. Almost immediately I’d see tasks which I avoided doing or wanted to put off. This lead to many incomplete to-do lists, and postponing work till the next day, then next etc….

So one day I took a sheet of paper and covered the whole to-do list. I inched the paper down to reveal ONE task. I completed it. Then I inched down to reveal the next. Completed it.

Having a singular goal to work on helped immensely!

Towards the end of that day I inched down only to reveal I had completed every single task I assigned the day before! It was a great feeling to get through all the work in such a quick and easy manner. Since then I’ve been using this little trick to help me complete to-do lists, and it’s still working great.

Here’s a quick video documenting how I structure, complete and save my to-do lists:

At the end of every day I put each to-do list into a binder for future reference.

After doing this for several months, it’s nice to go back and look through them. If one month I didn’t progress much, I can clearly see why by looking at these daily performance reviews. I make notes of good days, bad days, workout regimens, interesting happenings etc.

My Best Advice On To-Do Lists:
Figure out your own way and try many different methods. Most methods work extremely well for about two weeks then trail off. Your work and commitments are most likely much different than anyone else’s, so come up with your own to-do list style.

The one piece of advice I will give that should work for everyone:
Always make your to-do list the day before. If it’s Wednesday right now, you should have your Thursday to-do list made before you sleep. Seriously, it helps a lot.

1.) Write post about evolution of to-do list.
2.) Say goodbye.


Blog posted on: August 29, 2008

14 comments on “Evolution of The Daily To-Do List

  1. Darren

    I have been trying to contact you via e-mail, Nev, regarding a social networking concept I am working on & would appreciate feedback from you or any readers that would like to hefamcolp me.

    Concept in short:

    I would like to create a site that is simple, quick to navigate and loaded with information for the end-user (think Craigslist). The initial user can post an announcement for an upcoming party that he/she is having. I imagine that there would be a lot of interest with college students for this. The poster can maintain a database of potential invites in his/her registered account, click a box by the names of people that he/she wants to invite and then send out a mass e-mail. Other users can then browse the listings for events in their area and, if they did not get an invite, can send the ad poster an anonymous e-mail asking for an invite (they can then get the address and phone number, etc from the poster). If they don't know the person having the party the poster might ask for a picture before providing the info.

    There are parties every week across the nation. This would be a specific concept that narrows in on something that the social-networking sites don't. I believe I can use the social sites (MySpace, etc…) to promote the free-posting service, promote through colleges and solicit free PR in the media. Over time, the company can start selling ad space on each page to Seagrams, Budweiser, video game companies, etc…..

    I have started the initial groundwork, but would appreciate constructive comments/criticisms from everyone. I believe that your readers are well-informed and can really help me hone in on this concept. Nev, when you get a chance, check your e-mail for my message. Thanks!

  2. Neville

    Leave it to Linda to call me out!

    I actually wrote posts a while back with pictures…I just took the pictures from those old posts.

    Do you REALLY think this post was 4 years in the making?! :-)

  3. John VA Loans

    Interesting design concepts. I work for a mortgage company doing va loans and have found similar planning tactics to be useful in organizing my clients. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Robert

    One strategy I have used is this: I put each hour down the side of the page, one page per day, in typical Franklin Planner style. Then I vertically divide the page with a line, and over the left column I write “Theory” and over the right column “Practice.”

    In the Theory column I write down what I plan to be doing at each hour of the day, and in the Practice column I write down what I was actually doing.

    This is a good way to shame yourself into wasting less time on the internet and other stupid thing.

  5. Pingback: To-Do List How To | Neville's Financial Blog

  6. Kamal

    One of the best productivity hacks I’ve read. Going to apply this starting today. Thank you. If you make it out to San Francisco, let me know. You have a new friend out here.

  7. Pingback: Get your S!%T Done by Staying Accountable | PadorecPadorec

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