Simple Daily To Do List Template

It’s important to understand where you’re headed in life, but to be exceptional you’ll need to have an intense focus on what you’re doing right now. This can be a very tough balance to maintain, but there are some tools that can help. I’ve found the combination of keeping a permanent list of long term goals and a disposable daily to do list extremely effective. I tried out a number of to do lists before discovering this simple, daily to do list template that I’ve been using.

Make It Simple

Longer term goals require tweaking and reviewing, but daily task lists should be as simple as possible. Their purpose is to remind you where your focus should be for the day so you can quickly take action. I’ve tried a number of apps to do this (Wunderlist,, Evernote) and they all have their strengths and work well. However, I’ve found that an even simpler method works better for me.

I saw a couple of posts from John Zeratsky and Daniel Burka on Twitter a while back which showed John’s idea for a Post-it to do list. I’ve been using this daily to do list template for almost a year now and I love it.

Simple Daily To Do List Template

Get a Post-it and divide it into 3 rows:

  1. Make the first row 1 big item. This should be the most important thing to do today, and often will take the most time. You should feel like your day has been successful if you can accomplish this.
  2. Divide the second row into thirds and put in 3 medium things (maybe an hour or so each).
  3. The final section can hold some tiny tasks. I don’t always plan to check all of these off. Sometimes I also list things that I need to remember and will move into the top buckets on tomorrow’s to do list.

Planning Your To Do List

I plan out this simple to do list every morning right when I sit down at my desk. My first thought is, “What one thing can I get done that will make today a success?”. Sometimes this top item is obvious. If it isn’t as easy to decide, I’ll often take a look at my long term goals and figure out what I could do to move one of them forward. Otherwise, I’ll think of something that I’ve been putting off doing and make sure it gets done.

Once you’ve got that one thing, the rest of the items should be a bit easier. Think of things that aren’t that time consuming, but that you’d like to get done. Don’t overload your day with too many large items. I also like to reference my list from the previous day and transfer things that I didn’t get done or that I added to the bottom bucket.

Tips for Using the Daily To Do List Template

These are a few tips that I’ve found helpful from using this method:

  • List only things you can accomplish, otherwise break them into smaller chunks.
  • I often have a free 15-30 minutes before I need to do something else. That is a great time to pick something off row 2 or 3 and get a quick win.
  • When something comes up during the day that I won’t be able to get to, I jot it down in the 3rd row so I can transfer it to tomorrow’s to do list.
  • Put the list wherever you’ll see it often. I put it on my laptop next to the trackpad. You could also put it on your phone, wallet, or desk.
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