How To Make Your To-Do List Less Overwhelming

How To Make Your To-Do List Less Overwhelming

To-Do Lists have a fatal flaw —they never end.

No matter how much you get done in a day, there’s always new stuff to do.

As productivity expert David Allen famously said, “You can do anything, but not everything.”

The infinite nature of your To-Do list makes it as likely to remind you of what you failed to do as it is what you did.

No wonder you feel overwhelmed when you look at it.

An Enough List can help.

How To Create An Enough List

An Enough List is essentially a mini-version of your To-Do list, but with a slightly different focus.

While a To-Do list includes EVERYTHING you need to do, an Enough List includes only the BARE MINIMUM tasks you need to do on a particular day to feel it was productive. 

Your Enough List can live as a standalone document or be integrated as a section of your larger To-Do list.

Either way, it gives you something to guide your day that’s achievable, impactful, focused, and motivating as opposed to the unrealistic expectations and pressure that accompany a typical To-Do list.

(Btw, I share a deep dive into how I get things done each day in This Is How I Do It — also available as a single issue here.)

Six Ways To Optimize Your Enough List

While the basic structure of an Enough List is simple, here are a few suggestions to help you get the most out of using one…

1. Aim small.

The goal of your Enough List is to have as few items as possible on it. 

Only list the minimum number of tasks you need to accomplish today to be able to declare the day a success. Set yourself up to win.

2. Prioritize.

Assuming you aim small, a huge benefit of an Enough List is it forces you to consider your priorities each day and helps you make the best use of your time.

As long as you don’t cheat and avoid putting important stuff on the list.

3. Work on Enough List items first.

You don’t ONLY have to work on things on your Enough List each day, but if possible work on those items first and only work on other stuff once you get the Enough items done.

4. Be specific.

Make the items on your Enough List specific and measurable. 

For example, “Work on my book” isn’t a great Enough List item because it’s not clear how to judge completion of that as a task.

Instead, something like “Draft 10 pages,” “Write for one hour,” or “Outline Chapter 7” would be better.

5. One item is enough.

It’s OK to only have one item on your Enough List if doing that one thing will be enough to make you feel your day is a success.

Remember, the goal is to make your list as small as possible while still being able to feel you accomplished something impactful in your day.

Most days, your list probably shouldn’t have more than five items on it at most.

6. You don’t have to ONLY work on your Enough List items.

You don’t have to stop working when you complete the items on your Enough List (though you certainly can!). 

But take a moment to pause when you finish them, realize you’ve done enough for the day to be a success by your own standards, and feel good about yourself. 

If you choose to keep working and do more, go for it — but remember whatever other work you do that day is icing on the cake and not necessary to make your day a success. 

You’ve already won the day.

Take the win.

Discover the secrets of productive creators.