Should You Use a To-Do List or a Calendar?

calendar productivity to do list Dec 28, 2020

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Should you use a to-do list or a calendar?


You should use both a to-do list and a calendar. They both serve a function. There are a lot of people out there who are productivity experts like me who will tell you that truly successful people only use a calendar. They don't use a to-do list. They put everything on a calendar.

And you can watch other videos and read other blog posts and listen to other podcasts that say that successful people are list-makers.

I think you need to do both. There is something very powerful about capturing the thoughts in your head into an app or into a notebook like a bullet journal.

But there's also something to be said about putting those things on your calendar.

We've all heard the saying, "What gets scheduled gets done". I want to break this down for you a little bit more.

To-do lists are a way for you to capture your thoughts when you can't put them on your calendar. For example, let's say you and I are going to schedule a call to talk about something.

Well, suppose I can't get ahold of you. I've emailed you and I've texted you, But you're busy so I can't put that on the calendar yet. But I could put it on my to-do list, and it'll stay on my to-do list until I finally get ahold of you and we can actually schedule it.

So I think the to-do list is really important. Richard Branson is an avid note-taker, and an avid list maker, because he's capturing the thoughts out of his head.

Now. when it comes to the calendar, anything that takes time needs to go on your calendar.

So for example, if you're going to the doctor, that should go on your calendar because it's going to take you a significant amount of time.

But if you want to put a weekly reminder not to forget to take the garbage out, I wouldn't put that on my calendar. Does that take you a minute or two? Anything that takes less than 15 minutes should go on your to-do list.

But things that take time, I want you to put on your calendar. Here are a couple of things I want you to think about.

I don't want you to overload yourself. This is something a lot of people deal with. They put so much on their calendar and they color code everything, that it looks like a kid's coloring book. There are colors everywhere. Here's what I want you to think about.

If you put too much stuff on your calendar, you're probably not going to do a lot of it. So the stuff that needs to go on your calendar needs to be the stuff you're actually going to work on.
Does that make sense? Think about what you're putting on your calendar. Just don't do it on autopilot. Don't do it mindlessly. Think about what you're going to work on tomorrow. If you're planning your day the day before, or on the day, think about what you want on your calendar.

A lot of people make this mistake. They don't think about how much time they actually
have available to DO the work the following day.

So a to-do list is very powerful because our brains can't remember everything.

And I have this theory, but I can't prove it with science or medicine or any of that really cool stuff that smart people do. I believe you'll forget the most important thing you need to remember. It's like Murphy's Law.

So if you have an idea, whether for a video, for a podcast, for a book you want to go pick up, or for a friend you want to call, you need to capture that immediately. You can use a bullet journal or a to-do list. Just capture the idea.

One problem I see a lot with my clients, and I see this with a lot of people on social media too,
is that they just keep adding to their to-do list, and the pile gets bigger and bigger, and it becomes so overwhelming. The to-do list just sits there, and they say, "I'm not going to touch that."

It all needs to be done, but they don't know when they're going to get it done.

What you need to do is triage.

In wartime, when there are a lot of wounded people, they determine who is critical, who is stable, and who can wait. They triage.

You need to triage your to-do list every day. I don't care if you do it in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, or in the evening.

Just do it every day and evaluate. "I have all these things on my to-do list. What goes on my calendar?" Do not select all and move into the next day because that's not taking care of the problem.

I want you to think about what needs to go on your calendar. Suppose you have 20 items on your to-do list, and each one takes you less than three minutes to complete. So 20 times three is 60 minutes. Maybe that would be a really good calendar event. You can call it "do little things", or whatever you want to call it.

And then when that is scheduled on your calendar, all you do is knock out all those short to-do items. That's gold. A lot of times these little things get forgotten. You think, "Someday I'll get to them", but someday never comes.

So that email never gets sent. That card never gets sent. You never make that phone call.
You never FaceTime with your friend or family member.

Take that short stuff and allocate a 60-minute or 90-minute block of time, however long it's going to take you, and work on all these really small to-do items. Knock them out.

That's going to solve two problems.

Number one: you get the satisfaction of having completed those items on your to-do list.
Number two: people who are waiting to hear from you will be happy to hear from you or will be happy to hear you got the things done that you said you would get done.

I think there's enough room in this life for both to-do-lists and calendars, so I'm not a calendar-only or a to-do list only guy. I'm a both-guy. They both serve their purpose.

Capture all those thoughts, all those things you need to do, on your to-do list, and then move them over to your calendar. Now, if you're a little bit more advanced like I am, and you know when you can fit to-do items into your schedule and you don't have to contact anyone, you can put it directly in your calendar.

So I hope this short video really helped you distinguish between a calendar and a to-do list.

They're both very effective productivity tools, and you should use them both. But again,
I want to reiterate that you don't want to just keep piling items on the to-do list because while it's smart for you to capture your thoughts, it's not smart to keep piling on because the more items you have on your to-do list, the more overwhelming it becomes. You may end up just selecting all and moving them to the next day and the next day and the next day and so on.

Is this resonating with you?

Look at those things on your to-do list that need to be scheduled and put them on your calendar. Then you can mark them off your to-do list.

Again if you have small things, maybe create a calendar invite that says "The little things on my to-do list" and just knock a bunch of them out.

It's going to make you feel so accomplished.

So I really hope this video served you well. Thank you so much for your time and your attention. Whether you're watching this video or listening to this as part of The Mark Struczewski Podcast, I hope that you know that I'm cheering you on and I hope you stay productive.

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