Why You Should Keep Only One Todo List

One Todo List

How many todo lists do you keep?

(You do have one, right?)

While it’s important to keep a todo list, it’s equally important that you keep only one list.

How Many Todo Lists Do You Have?

A common trap when trying to wrangle your tasks is writing down what you need to do in multiple locations.

A todo app on your phone. In an Evernote document. On a pad of paper on your desk. Even on a Post-It note taped to the back of something else.

Multiple lists are not productive. In fact, they can end up costing you time in the long run. All of the duplications and multiple lists will only serve to complicate your time management system.

The results? Lack of priorities. Out-of-sight todos. Forgotten items. Missing todos. Even lost lists.

Instead, be disciplined about keeping all of your todos in one place… and on one list.

One List and One List Only

When you scatter your todos across multiple lists, you will inevitably lose sight of them. As well, it makes it impossible to prioritize your tasks.

The best strategy is to have one todo list.

Before you panic and say, “But, I need multiple lists,” I am talking about using one tool for your todos. Whether on paper or in an app doesn’t matter where you keep you list, as long as you keep all of your todos in a single place.

From there, you can subdivide your list into multiple domains or sub-lists. You can prioritize todos across all of your work.

I keep my one todo list in Wunderlist. I then subdivide it into lists of different domains of my life. I keep it prioritized and always maintain a TODAY list, which is my most pressing todos. So, while I have multiple sub-lists, I keep all of my todos in one place.

Here are some simple tips to help you keep one todo list:

  • Choose Tools You’ll Use – What type of todo list should you keep? Paper or app? That depends on you. I always recommend that you “Choose Tools You’ll Use.” In other words, pick the right tool for you based on your preference and skills.
  • The Power of 1 – The premise of having only one todo list ties into the larger strategy of having only one tool for each area of your time management. You should have one todo list, one calendar, one notebook, and one address book.
  • Subdivide Your List – The point is to keep all of your todos in one place. This doesn’t mean that you can’t subdivide or sort your todos. You should, in order to have a clear picture of what you need to do in each area of your life.
  • Prioritize It – One of the benefits of keeping one list is that you can prioritize all of your todos against each other. If you have separate lists, you can’t see the relative important tasks across lists. One list lets you always know your most important tasks.

Keep Your List in One Place

You can track as many todos as you want. However, make sure you keep them in one place.

You’ll always know where your todos are located, and you’ll have only one place to check when you need to know what you need to do next.

Keep one todo list. And one list only.

Question: In how many locations do you keep your todo lists currently?

23 thoughts on “Why You Should Keep Only One Todo List

  1. Craig, I started re-using Wunderlist a while back because you spoke so highly of it. To be honest, checking the box, and hearing the… ‘ding’ is highly addictive. I keep all my lists here too. I just wish Wunderlist would integrate with Google calendar so we could really get good bird’s eye view of all that been dated & planned-out on our lists.

    Great post!


    1. Robb, have you tried ifthisthanthat IFTTT or Zapier to give you that integration?
      Best regards,

    2. Funny you should mention that… I was just listening to that “ding” as I was checking off a few things! Feels good to check this off your list. Ever turn on your sound just so you can hear the completion “ding?” I have. 🙂

  2. I agree. I get blog post ideas all the time and for a while I had them in multiple locations. I quickly learned that was a very BAD idea. Now they all go in my planner. The only exception is if I’m out and about or driving and I think of something. Then I dictate it into my phone and transfer it to my planner as soon as possible.

  3. Craig, love this poste any my answer to this is ToDoist.com. Available on all platforms and has great integration with Zapier and IFTTT. This helps me getting my todos out of Evernote, which I use to take meeting minutes at customer visits. When I get back to the office, my new todos are already in my ToDoist inbox waiting for processing or delegation 🙂

    your posts make my live a lot simpler (of course it takes some technology as well 🙂 ).


  4. I started a Bullet Journal about a month ago and one of its draws is that there is only one list to pay attention to. I always tried different apps for my to-dos, but it is true that the only important one is what you use. Everyone describes Omnifocus as the best task manager, but it’s so much easier to just write things down, so I never used it. I don’t have to wait for paper to load to write my tasks, so that’s what I use.

    Good advice!

    1. I’m right there with ya. The Bullet Journal method has saved my life. I used Omnifocus for years but found my lists getting larger and larger and my stress level increasing. The tangibility of a simple written list that I can check off on a daily basis has increased my productivity and reduced stress. http://www.bulletjournal.com

  5. I have two places because I use Outlook tasks for my work stuff and Pocket Informant for personal. I’ve tried using one and the other for both and it’s way to hard. It works to have two for me.

      1. This is the situation I’m in. We have strict guidelines in place that confidential work information can’t go onto a server controlled by a third party. I have my personal stuff in OmniFocus (syncing through their OmniSync service) and work stuff is currently a couple of plain-text files (yes, you can use plain text files) synced through a company-controlled server. Most of my work access is done from a computer, and it works just fine. I *can* access work stuff from iPad/iPhone, but it’s slightly inelegant.

        I’m considering switching to OmniFocus for work stuff (synced through a company WebDAV server) and using Things for personal stuff. I have so much invested in AppleScripts, though…

      2. I have a laptop so if I’m moving around at work, it’s with me. I also have Good on my iPhone which connects to our server so if I really needed to pull my to-do list from my phone I could as well. I work for a mutual fund company so TONS of security around what we can keep even in personal notes.

  6. Thanks for great article. Few months ago I started web development company and I’m experiencing quiet a big mess in my task management process.

    I’m using Nozbe as my Inbox tool – action e-mails, tasks, someday maybe, invoices to pay, articles to read etc.

    For project management I’m using Wrike.

    And here is the challenge – there are assigned tasks in Wrike for me and there are tasks in Nozbe + personal projects.

    How to keep track of all tasks and what’s the best way to create one to do list, so I don’t lose focus trough day. And I also make one 2Do list on my notebook – daily focus. Generally I’m typical persona for this article!! 🙂

    In Nozbe I have also “2 type task lists”- personal tasks, business tasks.

    And in Gmail I’m using Activeinboxhq.com

    So, It has become quiet complicated system which starts to sabotage my goal to be productive and effective.

  7. This case works for me. All I could improve is come up with a to-do list this week. I don’t think I can think of more than this. Am sure that a productivity tool does come handy. But which one to use?

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