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Productive To-Do List: The One Hack You Need

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To-do lists are a powerful tool to make you productive.
They keep you organized — and checking off tasks feels fantastic.

Some people keep complex to-do lists for everything — others use them to manage their priorities.

But how can you make a productive to-do list?

The secret is called execution mode.

With this hack, you get your priorities done faster – even if your organizational skills are already great.

But before we dive into the power of execution mode, let’s see why the right to-do list makes you more productive.

Willpower is a finite resource

Every day, you make hundreds of decisions. It’s exhausting.

So think of your willpower as the gas tank in your car. Each decision drains it.

It’s tough to stick to your to-do list when you’ve run out of willpower.
That’s when you pick the easiest task from your list. Or you ignore your list altogether.

A productive to-do list limits draining decision-making
A productive to-do list limits draining decision-making

Routines save your brainpower

Routines put regular actions on autopilot, so you don’t have to think.

Ever wondered if you locked the front door (and had)?
Or how you got to work?

If you want more brainpower, you can’t waste it on hundreds of decisions.

The better your plan, the less you have to think.

This means you’ll have more time and energy for important things. Never waste willpower on low priority decisions.

That’s why “prepare your day the night before” is such a common tip.

The right to-do list makes you productive

Make a simple to-do list the night before – or first thing in the morning…

So grab a pen and paper…

And list everything you want to get done – when your mind’s still fresh and focused on planning your day.

Before you get sucked into another dimension by emails or social media.

This will help you immensely once you’re in execution mode. 

But we’ll get to that soon…

The basic to-do list

For a basic to-do list, I simply jot down what I need to do.

I check my calendar for deadlines or meetings. And if I get new tasks and requests during the day, I’ll add them.

It’s a basic list that fits on a sticky note. It keeps tasks visible instead of in my head.

Turn your tasks into a productive to-do list with priorities
Turn your tasks into a productive to-do list

Level up to a productive to-do list

But highly efficient people don’t use simple sticky notes. 

The trick for productive to-do lists is priorities – especially when you manage dozens of tasks.

Now, this is important…

Make sure all your tasks are actionable. This is a productive to-DO list.

You can’t do a project.
So break bigger tasks down into doable steps.

One-page Daily goal planner
Stay organized and productive with your daily planner

Here’s the secret sauce for a fantastic to-do list

Create a spreadsheet with all your actionable tasks. Note how long each task will take.
Then add “importance factors” as columns.

Factors to sort your tasks by importance

They can be anything, such as

  • Stress
  • Praise
  • Urgency
  • Money
  • Helping others
  • Values
  • Complexity
  • (avoiding) Embarrassment
  • Due-date
  • … Anything

Now you assign points to these factors. Pick a system that makes sense to you.
You could use 0 points (low importance), 5 points, 10 points, and 20 points (very important).

Let’s see an example…

Something urgent, highly stressful, that will get you praise would get 20 points for each of these factors. Plus whatever you choose for other factors.

The higher the total points per task, the higher the priority.

So this points system gives you a to-do list hierarchy!

You can even break “urgency” into sub-categories:

  • Critical (extremely important)
  • Important
  • Moderately important
  • Nice to have
  • Do now
  • Do next
  • To-do list
  • Do never

Productive to-do lists help you focus on high priorities instead of wasting time and energy on less important tasks.

This is particularly useful for people with ambitious goals.
Or freelancers and entrepreneurs who juggle many projects.

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Priorities create a productive to-do list

This point system sounds like a lot of work. But it’s a powerful tool.

Having a simple to-do list is better than nothing. But it’s not very efficient without this little hack called “priorities”.

And once you have your priority spreadsheet, creating your next list is a breeze.

Not only will priorities give you a clear vision, but you can also take advantage of the execution mode.

So, what’s this execution mode already?

The power of execution mode

When your to-do list has no priorities, you SCAN your list to pick a task.
Maybe the most urgent one. Or the easiest. 

You cross it out when you’re done – then scan your list again to pick the next task.

Scanning and choosing wastes willpower and is very unproductive.

To-do list without priorities
To-do list without priorities

Use execution mode instead

When your to-do list is sorted by priority, you always do the next task on your list.

No pondering which task needs your attention next.
You did the thinking when you created your priorities to-do list, now you breeze through it.

That’s the beauty of execution mode (doing-mode).

Do – check off. 

Do – check off.

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Be productive with your priority to-do-list

Naturally, you must have control over your time and tasks.
When your priorities change all the time, you can’t take advantage of the execution mode.

Sure, you can prioritize…

But you can’t get into “doing mode” if people and unscheduled appointments interrupt your flow.


Creating a to-do list with priorities is fantastic for your productivity.

And if you need tips to help with your motivation, here are 7 motivation ideas you can try.

So, have fun and make your most productive to-do list ever.

And please share your tips in the comments below.

Have a great productive day,

Improve yourself. Improve your life!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Safi

    Hey…It’s really awesome and it motivated me..Thank you.

    1. Learning Ninja

      Hi Safi,
      Thanks so much and you’re welcome. I’m glad it helped!!

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