How I Turbo Charged My To Do List


Improving my To-Do list and getting things done has been a priority for me lately. I’ve been launching a business and specifically a new product and things were getting done, but it was often very hard to get them done.

I kept working and working and feeling I hadn’t done much of anything. Every time I removed something from my To-Do list, I felt like there was just as much left. Its kind of like the laundry. You do it and by the time you get the basket back there is already new dirty laundry.

Evernote to the rescue

I use Evernote for everything. I do this for a number of reasons, the biggest being I work in a lot of different places, home computer, work computer, iPhone. Evernote lets me keep all the stuff I need on all of these machines without having to think about it. I started using it when I stopped bringing a laptop to work and needed to keep things in sync. Now I put about everything in it.

Including my To-Do list.

I started out with a single note with my To-Do list in it as text. Then I’d change the format to strike through when I finished it. This didn’t work for a couple of reasons.

First, Evernote doesn’t let you edit notes with mixed formatting on the iPhone. So I couldn’t mark things done from my iPhone. I could add things, but only to the end of the note, which wasn’t super useful.

Second, all that crossed out text started hiding the stuff that still needed to be done. I tried moving it around, but that didn’t help much either.

So I started just deleting it.

Which is where my mental problem came in.

My Mental Problem With To Do Lists

Often we think of a To-Do list as a time management tool. That we don’t have enough time to do everything we need to. But, for me at least, I have enough time to do stuff. What I don’t have is enough motivation. If I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything, it gets harder and harder to keep doing the next thing.

The opposite is also true. If I’m on a roll and getting stuff done, then I want to do more. That feeling of accomplishment is fire the engine.

My Solution: The Finished To Do List

About a month and a half ago, I started a new note in Evernote called Finished To Dos. Whenever I finished something in my To-Do list, I’d cut it out of the To-Do note and paste it into the Finished To Do note. I’d group these by date.

This got the done To-Dos out of the list and keep it clean.

It also showed me every day how much I’d done and let me review what I’d done so I never had to think “Did I really do X?”

It can also answer the questions “When did I do X?”. So if someone comes back to me and says “You didn’t finish report X” I can look at my finished list and say, “Yes, I finished it on the 4th and uploaded it on the 5th.”

Filling up the finished list gives you a little energy boost every time you paste something in it. Plus you get to where you want to beat your personal best for number of items added in a day to the finished list.

Peter Drucker says, “Measure what matters.” If I want to get stuff done, then I need to measure what I get done. This method gives me detailed data on what I’ve done for later analysis.

Sometimes something comes up that isn’t on your todo list but needs to be done right now. When that happens I still enter it in my Finished To Do list.

This has made a dramatic improvement in my getting things done. It has also made positive mental impacts. I feel like I’m getting stuff done. I feel a surety that things will get done. I don’t have a worry that I missed something.

A surprise is it gives me more free time. Actually really it gives me more non-guilty free time. Say I want to watch a couple of episodes of my Farscape DVDs. In the past I’d have done it but I’d have felt I should be doing something else. Now I can look at my Finished To Do list and know I’ve accomplished plenty today and can take some time off.

Have any of you done anything like this? If so leave a comment below.

Try it out and give me your feedback in the comments below as well.


  1. Tim says:

    Could you describe your todo list itself .
    Is it just a numbered List Laundry list type thing in a single note.
    Do you have a notebook dedicated to it?
    Do you use a tag structure? For various categories.
    I’d love to use Evernote for it but can’t visualize how it’d work!

  2. Ron says:

    My to do list is just a list of things I need to do. I have some sub headings that have project names, but the next things I need to do are right at the top of the note.

    I have a to-do notebook in Evernote. It has my main to-do list and finished to-do list and a few other notes for specific projects. Like when I changed banks there were so many things I just made a note for it and listed them all. Then I’d move a few at a time to the main to-do list and handle them there.

    I don’t use the tags in Evernote because once you get a number of them the list gets useless. Instead I break things into notebooks. Kind of like how I don’t use tags on the blog, but do use categories.

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