“De-clutter Your To-Do List”

The ultimate guide to creating a capsule To-Do list

Coming to the end of another busy day you’ll undoubtedly have performed a plethora of tasks and the volume of your activity will be impressive. But are you ending your day with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction?

Do you sometimes feel that despite your best efforts you have not made the progress you desired and still feel frustratingly ‘behind’? When you look at the day ahead, does your list make you feel trapped, a slave to the never-ending tick boxes of actions, chores and reminders?

If you are giving your home a spring clean and getting it ready and refreshed for the warmer months, why not give your To-Do list a spring clean as well? There are numerous ways to organise a To-Do list, but the most effective way is to start with a proper To-Do list de-clutter.

“De-clutter your To-Do List”

At some point we have all de-cluttered our wardrobes, either in the mindful Marie Kondo style or simply in a reactive frenzied blitz. Whichever route you took, the process ultimately helped you clear some space. As I really love a good clear out, let’s use a closet clearing technique to create your very own capsule To-Do list!

Start by getting everything you need to do for the coming day out in front of you and label each item with A, B, C, D or E.

(A) Investment piece. These are the key essential items that are critical and need to be the first pieces to go into your capsule To-Do list. They are your “must have” actions. These actions will have serious positive consequences if completed, but serious negative consequences you fail to do them.

(B) Doesn’t fit right now. These are the pieces that you should keep, but are a bit of a squeeze to get into right now. They are not as important as your investment pieces and have milder consequences if you fail to do them. The rule is that you should never shoehorn one of these tasks in when there is an essential ‘A’ item left undone. So don’t distract yourself with these ‘B’ tasks as they will distort your priorities.

(C) Feel good basics. These are the items that make you feel good, and are not to be dismissed. They are not directly related to a deadline but they are just as important. They are about self-compassion and having a daily action that helps you take care of yourself. Is it missing from your To-Do list? Add something in, it can be as simple as taking 20 minutes to leave your desk, go into your garden, eat your lunch, walk around the block, phone a friend or call your parents. These items are classics that will last you a life time.

(D) Donate. These are the pieces you can give to someone else. Do you really need to keep this item? Can you pass it on to your partner, your children, your dad, your mum, a neighbour, a friend, a colleague … think hard! Delegate everything that someone else can do, so you can free up more time for the ‘A’ tasks that only you can do.

(E) Eliminate. These are the items you can bag up and get rid of. Be ruthless - it won’t make any real difference to ditch these items. Maybe they were important at one time but are no longer relevant to you or anyone else. Often they are something you have continued to do out of habit. But every minute you spend on an ‘E’ task is time taken away from an ‘A’ item that can make a real difference to your life.

This model has been inspired by the ABCDE model in Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

After you have completed this cleanse you are ready to populate a new list for the coming day and it will be purposefully minimalistic!

Magic formula

There is no magic number for your capsule To-Do list. The formula of 3 x A-pieces, 2 x B-items and some seasonal C-items is yours to work out for yourself.

But remember that the ‘A’ items need to come first and when filing these back into your ‘To-Do’ wardrobe, hang them in order of priority A1, A2, A3. Observe the space these items already take up and remember these investment pieces demand all your attention so be realistic about your ability to slip in an item from the ‘B’ list. But do ensure you get one feel-good-basic from your ‘C’ list into the mix.

The To-Don’t list

Those items left lying around, the ‘D’ and ‘E’ items, are now officially off your To-Do list and on your To-

Don’t list.

The To-Don’t list is a great way to overcome procrastination and guide you back towards the tasks that matter most. If you initially feel uncomfortable with your To-Don’t list - after all you probably have a habit of doing those tasks and you may not yet be ready to part with them - then you can always try the following:

If you feel like you are imposing your ‘bag of unwanted tasks’ onto a friend or colleague, then offer a “task-swap” instead. Your task could suit them better than it suited you and vice versa.

If you are not quite ready to ditch those items then stash them in a separate list and don’t look at them again for a week, a fortnight, a month. Eventually after a bit of time away from your main To-Do list you’ll recognise that you can eliminate them for good.

I hope you are energised and empowered with your newly de-cluttered list. With renewed willpower to tackle those investment pieces first, you will start getting more done than ever before!

Of course, there is always a realistic fear that you’ll accumulate new tasks and suddenly your capsule To-

Do list will be bursting at the seams again. But just like shopping for new clothes, pause and consider: can you afford these new additions? Do they clash with your other tasks? Would they suit someone else better? Does someone in particular keep dumping bags of unwanted goods on you to sort out? Could you apply a One-In-One-Out rule to keep your To-Do list clutter free?

Enjoy the process and good luck! I am always keen to hear your stories so please tell me your experiences!


If you no longer want to feel overwhelmed, confused and disorganised, working with a coach is a great way to gain clarity and direction.

Contact me and for an informal chat about how I can support you in embracing your To-Do list and letting go of the To-Don’t list. Email or mobile 07919 051414.