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How I Create To-Do Lists That I Actually Complete

While WME might be focussed an all things digital, I am a firm believer that there always comes a time for old-school tactics.

As a time-pressured business owner, it’s crucial that I spend every minute working on tasks that move my company forward, which is why I rely on a tightly-focussed hand-written to-do list to help me determine where I should allocate my time.

So if your to-do list is ever-growing, and your productivity is decreasing, then it’s time to change things up. Here’s how I ensure I finish each day on a productive note.

Keep it simple and be ruthless

Long to-do lists are impractical. I only ever write down things that have to be done today. The rest can wait. Long lists with incomplete tasks only serve as a distraction. Over the years, I’ve found they stress me out if I feel like I’m not moving through my items quickly enough. And stressing over things like that is a big waste of time. If I have some smaller tasks on my list that someone else can complete, then I delegate it. This allows me to focus on tasks that require more energy.

Eat a live frog in the morning

At the top of my list is my least favourite task, which I get out of the way first thing in the morning. It’s so easy to put off your worst task and tell yourself you’ll get to it later. But speaking from experience, as the day stretches out and as other items land on my plate, procrastination can win out. If I know that I am likely to delay a certain task, I’ll do it first thing when my mind is clear and I’m free of other distractions.


Plan ahead

Every morning on my commute to work, I write down my to-do list for that day. Not only does this give my day some structure, but it means I can hit the ground running as soon as I walk into the office, and won’t have to waste any precious time working out what to do next. I also like to keep my list next to my keyboard for easy reference, and I always keep a highlighter on hand to cross off completed items.

Dealing with those incomplete tasks

Sometimes, tasks can take a little longer than expected. When this happens to me, I take one of three approaches: I either prioritise it for completion tomorrow, delegate it to someone else, or drop the task entirely. However, make sure you don’t rollover tasks for too many days running, as you’ll come to resent it and then you’ll never get it done. If it’s something a team member can do, pass it on. And if it’s something that’s been floating around for ages and is no longer a must-do, cut it entirely.


Don’t waste your energy or lose your motivation with long to-do lists that you’ll never complete in a day. Instead, focus on items that relate to your core business, and delegate the rest. This way, you’ll end up with a shorter list of tasks, but a longer list of accomplishments. And if you’d like to start writing a productive to-do list today, download my template here. I hope you find it helpful!

By Nick Bell

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