Founders, it's time to ditch your to-do list. There is a better way

In the early days of my startup, I thought that working long hours was required to build a successful business.

But everything changed in 2018 when I had 9 months to prepare for the birth of my first child. I needed to figure out a way to cut my work hours from an average of 50 per week to 35.

Ditching my to-do list and switching to managing tasks in my calendar helped with this.

Calendars are better for task management than a to-do list

However, many founders find it hard to let go of their to-do lists.

Common fears about not having a to-do list:

  • I won’t be able to keep track of everything I need to do
  • I won’t have somewhere to jot down tasks as they come to me
  • I won’t know what I need to work on each day

All of these concerns can be addressed by using your calendar to manage tasks.

#1: Start by applying the 2-minute rule to processing your email

Action every email that takes less than a few minutes.

For remaining emails, batch them into similar tasks and then allocate time in your calendar to work on that group of tasks.

I also 'snooze' these emails, so they arrive back in my inbox at the time I have scheduled to work on that group of tasks.

#2. Planning your schedule in advance

Every Friday I do a calendar review and plan my tasks for the week ahead.

This doesn’t mean I sit down on Friday and start from scratch. Throughout the week I have been adding tasks to my calendar as they crop up.

#3. Buffer: build in at least an hour a day for the unexpected

Building in a bufffer prevents your day from being derailed by the unexpected.

#4 Give yourself tight timelines

Parkinson's law - "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"

I like setting myself challenges to see how quickly I can get through certain tasks.

#5. Have a 'someday list'

Creating a ‘someday list’ reduced the guilt I felt around unactioned tasks. It made it ok to not tackle these tasks right now.

I review the ‘someday’ list as part of our quarterly project planning process.