March 18, 2022

Delete or Complete

“I love lists. Always have.”
― Adam Savage

I love to-do lists. The only problem is they have an unfortunate tendency to grow. Of course, if you prioritize well, you can work from the top down. Still, I think it’s nicer to have a short to-do list.

There are several effective methods for dealing with a lengthy to-do list. One of my favorites is the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s excellent because it helps you focus on what matters most. The only problem is that sometimes it gets a bit complicated, especially when you feel like you need to do everything.

So I found a simple method that works for me.

Ultimately, there are only two ways to deal with items on a to-do list. You can either complete tasks or delete tasks.

With a long list, you won’t be able to complete everything in one day. You need to prioritize the list, and it’s easier to prioritize a shorter list. So let’s start by deleting tasks.

For every task, ask yourself these questions:

  1. If I was out of the country for a month, could this task wait without negative consequences?
  2. Does this task distract me from my long-term goals?
  3. Can someone else complete this task?
  4. Can I ignore this task entirely?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, consider deleting the task. Don’t try to keep it around because you’re afraid you might forget about it. Every item on your to-do list steals mental energy, so ruthlessly delete.

Now let’s prioritize what’s left.

For every remaining task, ask these questions:

  1. Do I need to complete this task today to avoid a negative consequence? If yes, move it to the top.
  2. If this is the only task I complete today, will I consider the day a success? If yes, move it below anything from #1
  3. Will completing this task move me closer to one of my long-term goals? If yes, move it right below anything from #2.
  4. Do I need to complete this task soon to avoid a negative consequence? If yes, move it below anything from #3.
  5. Did I answer “no” to the first four questions about this task? If yes, delete the task.

Now let’s go complete some tasks.