A to-do list in three parts

I’ve written before about the language we use around getting things done and making progress. There’s also a balance to be found between completing tasks with upcoming deadlines and working on more long-term projects.

In this post I want to introduce you to a new system I’m experimenting with for my weekly to do list that seeks to address these tensions.

The challenge

One of the benefits of our weekly review in the Leapers Accountability Pod is that over time you can identify patterns and spot what’s working, what’s not, and how you feel about it. Late last year, I observed that I was growing frustrated with how many of the items on my to do list each week weren’t getting checked off.

When I delved a little deeper to find out why, I saw that it was because the items on my list were often based on thinking or making progress. I never felt that I could mark these activities as complete and yet I was still doing the work I had set out to do each week.

The experiment

I wanted to mark the progress I was making and recognise that thinking is a valid and valuable work activity in itself, that not all tasks require or have a tangible outcome. One week I decided to split up my weekly to do list into three groups:

  • things to finish
  • things to progress
  • things to think about

It was a game changer!


Here are some of the things I’ve noticed since breaking up my to do list in this way:

  • I prioritise the things that need to be finished (these are the most likely to be associated with immediate deadlines)
  • fewer items are left unchecked at the end of the week
  • I’m making more consistent progress on activities that have a longer timeframe and move along the important not urgent activities at a steadier rate (rather than waiting until they become urgent and important)
  • tasks reappear from week-to-week and move up through the groups
  • items in the to finish group are often easier to do because I’ve spent time previously either thinking about them or making gradual progress (rather than a sprint) towards completion


With this experiment, I’ve hit upon a system for my weekly to-do list that helps me to keep track of the work that actually gets done and make more consistent progress on longer-term projects. It allows me to feel the progress I’m making and appreciate the variety in the types of activity that contribute to my work as a whole.

Now it’s over to you…

How might you reimagine your to-do list?

Featured image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

about emma

I am a coach and facilitator helping people to pause, reflect and make conscious choices about what comes next. In my writing I explore themes of personal development, reflective practice and what it means to live well.