How to finally get rid of your to-do list? The dead of to-do list.

to-do listWhat I am going to write now is probably something that productivity business owners won’t share.

I have lost my faith to to-do lists. ..and I am going to drop my list completely.

There must be a completely different approach to productivity. There must be something else than to-do lists, projects and deadlines. There must be a solution for overworked and overstressed people.

To-do lists and productivity is a business. I have not even counted how many list applications there are on the market. They all add something to the list. Some have timers, some have nice colors, some can slide beautifully to the left and some have different ways to delegate your tasks.

But they all are just lists.

We all have them – to-do lists.

But is the to-do list the best thing in productivity? Is it only way to get things done?

Or is the list just one form of auto piloting?

One of my colleagues complained while back that he has so many things in his list. (Actually in backlog how we call it in Scrum methodology)

I asked from him, “do you really know that you need to do them all?”

“What do you mean?”, He asked.

“I mean what would happen if you would drop all items?”. He looked at me surprised first, but then he started to realize what I was after, “But People have asked for those things”

“Yes, I know, but what would happen if you would not do them and instead would do what you think you should do?”

“Nothing I suppose. At least most people would not ask again. Some would.”, he replied already bit carelessly.

“That is what I mean. You most likely keep a list of items that are not really needed or required”.

To-do list might actually hinder your success. It might be the thing that blocks you from achieving what you want.

Instead of aiming your success or trying to reach your goals. You are just executing your list, which is in worst case populated by others – not by you.

To-do list becomes easily like a check list. You execute it routinely without thinking if the tasks have any value or meaning.

Instead of figuring out what is the next task that brings you closer to the ultimate success you are just checking what is the next item in your list.

To-do list is keeping you busy but does it bring you any closer of your targets?

If you would not execute all items in your list. What would happen? What would you do instead? What will happen if you someday manage to finish all the tasks in your list? Are you successful or is it that others will celebrate the work you have done?

Do you ever think what is the most important thing you could do next?

Not the next item. ..but the next most important item for your goals?


I am going to get rid of to-do list completely. I don’t keep a list.


So, what I am offering instead.

My daily habit will be:

1. Write your long-term goals on top of paper. Only 2-3 goals that are measurable. Revisit your goals daily and rewrite them if they chance.

2. Take two things that bother and stress you the most. Take care those items immediately. Find a solution. You need to clear your mind to be great.

3. Create a list of  reminders of the things you won’t do today.


  • I won’t read email today (or it is the last thing I will do)
  • I won’t take care of the invoices
  • I won’t do any administrative work today
  • I wont check twitter during the day


The next part is heavily influenced by the book “One thing“.

4. Write one thing you can do today to move closer to your goals. One thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary. You are searching for domino effect. If you do that one thing – things start to happen.

Your number one priority is to reach your daily goal. Don’t let anything to get in to your way. Cancel meetings, contact people and work your ass off.

5. When you reach your goals celebrate.

Say loudly how great you are. Go for coffee, go for ice-cream do what ever, but be happy and proud you just finished your daily goals.

6. Socialize.

Spent rest of the day to talk with others. (Destroy their productivity 😉

7. Prepare for the next day.

After finishing your daily goal. You don’t need to set next goal.

What you can do instead is to secure next day. Check what is on your calendar, cancel meetings and arrange time for your next days goals.

With this approach..

I don’t have deadlines.

I don’t have long-term plans. Just goals.

I don’t have growing to-do list to maintain.


You are probably thinking what about all incoming stuff? How do I handle that?

That will be the topic for my next post: How to handle all incoming stuff.

What to do to all requests if I don’t even have list to write them on?



Photo credit Flick and tmray02 

  • David Hay

    Hi Rami, It’s certainly a very interesting take on things, I like the idea in principal, but whilst it may not be a to-do list as such, you’re still having to sit down and put a list together to prioritise?
    We thought long and hard about all the other Productivity, To-Do list apps out there, and that’s why with Allthings ( we’ve focussed on keeping it really easy, not pretending to be something that’s going to run your life, but in reality it is a really simple easy to use list sharing app!
    Look forward to reading your next blog post!

  • Rami Rantala


    I want to find completely different approach for getting things done. I have actually worked already like this, without writing it down as “daily habit”.

    What I want to introduce, and increase, is focus on the tasks that really move you towards your own goals and not just maintaining and executing items from the list that might have lost its power already.

    ..and you are right. I will have “list” anyway for the day .. and it could be in list application as well – specially like I have something in my mind that I am going to share soon in upcoming posts.

    Thank you for your comment! I really appreciate it.


  • franciscojsaez

    I think it’s not a “to-do list” problem. The problem comes when you fill the lists with stuff that are not part of your goals, to satisfy someone else’s goals.

    So, in the end, I basically agree with your daily habit approach. You set your goals and the way to accomplish them. For me, this is the only way that to-do lists work. (In fact, you end up needing a list of reminders, which is another way to call a to-do list, isn’t it?)

    Good post, Rami. I hope it make people think about how they’re using their lists.

    • Rami Rantala

      I admit that the headline was a bit provocative. People easily focus too much on the list and forget, what is actually important. On a larger scale, we focus too much on our backlogs and again forget what is important today – specially if things change.

      If you don’t keep a long list, you are forced to re-evaluate every day your goals and important tasks. You are forced to find the most important item for today – not just next item from your list.

      Thank you for your comment!

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