When it comes to the never-ending battle for focus, keeping a daily “today” list is one of the better decisions I've made. They provide focus, clarity, and direction—but only when properly prepared.

Each day I sent down at my desk, the first thing I do is create my daily today list.

My today list typically consists of three to five items each day. These are my top priority tasks for the day. Though they may not be all I get done, they are the most important.

“Complete your must-do tasks, and you'll know that your day was well spent.”

If I manage to complete everything on the list, I'll add a couple more tasks—though on a good day I'm happy with these three to five.

To effectively make use of today lists, you'll need to keep up with a few complementary habits, as well.

  1. Maintain a master task list. This is the list you'll refer to, whenever you draft your today list each day. Add tasks here as they arise, and you'll better focus on the project at hand. I keep ongoing lists in Wunderlist and mentally dismiss tasks once they're logged on the app.
  2. Adhere to a daily theme. This takes a little practice but should be no trouble if you're actively theming your days. When each day has a single focus, your today lists should reflect that, as well. Choose tasks based off of the day's theme, and your today lists will be much more effective.
  3. Refocus three times a day. Three is by no means a magic number, but it does seem to work well for me. If you review your today lists three times, you're less likely to get lost on tangents throughout your day. I review my today list an hour or two after I start work, during or just after lunch, and a couple of hours before I'd like to be done.

Today lists allow you to strategically plan out your day. They give you control of your time and provide clear goals you can work towards all the time.

“Your today lists serves as a small map for each day. #DailyLifeNavigation”

How could today lists help you focus each day?[/reminder

6 thoughts on “The How-to and Habits of Effective Today Lists Each Day

  1. John,
    I really needed the today list idea implemented today! Thanks for this encouragement. I’ve long had a master to do list, even prioritized, but my progress is haphazard and unfocused because of so many different arenas of life/hats I wear aka overcommitment. I’ll check in after I implement this strategy along with themed days in a few weeks, but here goes my baby steps.

    1. I’m so glad this helped you! I totally get the overcommitment issue. Themed days and today lists have helped me work on scaling that back, because I know if it doesn’t fit within one of my themes it probably doesn’t belong in my life (at least as a recurring commitment).

  2. I am a self-proclaimed task geek and I completely agree with what you’ve written. I used to keep just weekly lists but I recently switched to writing down 2-3 things I want to accomplish today while maintaining a master list.

  3. Hi, John,

    I like the idea of “theming” my days. I’ve been considering doing something like that and you have given me the impetus to start!

    Thanks,
    Sue

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