Are You Putting Too Many Things on Your To-Do List?

To-Do List Success

When it comes to lists, you may think that the more, the merrier. Not so! In fact, after about 10 items, your list starts to decrease in productivity. The vast number of to-dos actually discourages you, and you fall into the old, “I’m never going to get it all done, so why bother?” mindset.

Then you end up not following your list at all, tackling the small, easy tasks (instead of the important things), or just giving up on it altogether. Instead of cranking away, working towards your goals, instead you’re flying by the seat of your pants and handling whatever catches your attention. Not the way to make progress!

The solution: Limit the number of items on your list. Powerhouse productivity experts and get-it-done folks like the late cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash and Leo Babauta (author of popular blog Zen Habits) recommend keeping the number of items on your list to about six. In speeches and her writings, Mary Kay credits much of her success to the “six most important things” list she would create each night before bead. And blogger and author Babauta urges his readers to limit themselves to a half-dozen major to-dos for each day.

You may be saying, “How in the heck will I ever cut my list of items to only six? I can fill up three pages with things to do!” The key is to filter it down to the most important items to be accomplished in the next 24 hours. Remember, if you get it all done, you can always add more items!

If you’re afraid you’ll forget the other, less important items, create a separate project list that is kept in a different location, in a different notebook or in a computer file (I personally like, or even on the whiteboard in your office. Here you can “park” all those other ideas, projects, and tasks until it’s time to tackle them. By moving them off your main list, you’ll limit your scope to the critical actions and keep your focus where it matters: On your biggest goals.

It can also be useful to create a running list of “Five-Minute Tasks” that you can turn to when you have downtime between the larger items. Need a breather after you finish writing a 10-page report? Pull out your Five-Minute Task list and make a phone call or two, or order your son’s birthday present from Amazon. Then go right back to your big list and start chipping away at your next major goal.

{ Your Guilt-Free RESULTS Homework }

1.  Try out limiting your list and breaking your huge task list into some smaller more manageable lists as outlined above. Just a week or two of using this method will show you how you actually can accomplish MORE by focusing on LESS. Give it a try; if it doesn’t make you more productive, you can always go back to your catch-all list. I think you’ll find it was worth the experimentation.

2.  Once you’ve done this for a couple week’s review your lists to see which items on your to-do list ALWAYS get done first? Which ones get done last or NEVER get done? Do your personal to-do list items seem to never get completed?

{ Need a To-Do List Assist? }

Not sure how to break down your goals into productive to-do lists that will help you get the job done? I invite you to join my free 30 Day Business Challenge for more step-by-step information to help you achieve one goal in the next 30 days. for details and registration.


Image: Stuart Miles /

About Victoria Cook

Victoria Cook, ACC is a certified coach, speaker, author, and expert on guilt-free results. Her unique 7-step process has helped thousands of business owners achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.
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One Response to Are You Putting Too Many Things on Your To-Do List?

  1. Excellent article and useful tips. Thank you.

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