Calendaring and to-do list management

This post describes a system that I'm using to plan and use my time effectively to execute towards my goals. This is part of a series of posts that I'm writing on systems that can help us live intentionally and effectively.


1) How you spend your days is how you spend your life. If you want to spend your days effectively, you need to plan. Planning requires time and effort. Block off time to plan, reflect and process. 

2) Have an intentional list of priorities and tasks; otherwise, your time is going to be spent on whatever comes your way. 
  • Have a source of truth for all things to be done (to-do list) and events (calendar)
  • Break up projects and larger, ambiguous tasks into specific and actionable tasks
3) Focus on only a few priorities every week and every year. 
  • Protect your time and calendar. Say no to tasks and events that aren't important to you. 
  • Allocate time and energy proportional to opportunity.  
4) Your plans should include buffers and self-care, relaxation, and fun. Leave buffers for spillovers and to go with the flow. 


1) Maintain these distinct to-do lists (similar to Get things Done methodology)
  • Backlog: add project or idea or task to this list. Triage this list weekly by either deleting,  adding it to a "Someday" list, adding as a task to a project or by creating a new Active Project
  • "Someday" projects: List of projects that you'd like to Someday. Try to keep this one prioritized and revisit every few months or when you have free time. 
  • Active Projects (a separate list for each project)
    • Don't pursue more than 3 major projects, unless you have a track record of doing more successfully. 
    • Maintain a specific, actionable list of tasks to accomplish the project
    • Keep track of tasks where you are waiting on someone else so that you can follow up.

2) Schedule these recurring calendar events

Plan the week: 1 hour every Sunday
  • Look through every Active project and prioritize tasks to be completed that week; assign tasks to days
  • Clean up your calendar to make sure it reflects priorities.
  • To-do list maintenance: 
    • Add or clarify tasks to Active project
    • Triage the Backlog list
Plan the day: 30 mins at the start of every weekday 
  • Prioritize tasks for the day
  • Send out reminders for tasks that you are waiting on
Wrap up the day: 30 mins at the end of every weekday 
  • Carry forward unfinished tasks to the next day
  • Translate notes from throughout the day into to-dos or knowledge repository
Wrap up the week: 1 hour every Friday
  • Same as the daily wrap up 
  • Reflect on week's progress and learnings 
Reflect, review and set goals: 1-2 hours every month or quarter

3) Meetings

Meetings deserve a special callout it takes a substantial portion of time for office workers 
  • Can it be done over email? If so, propose that.  
  • If it is recurring, can it be async and can you setup a better interface and role/scope definition that requires less frequent communication?
  • If you are the owner, share a clear agenda and outcomes. Follow up with notes and outcomes. 
  • If you are an attendee, request an agenda if unclear. 


  • Todoist: free version includes all the features to implement the system above. 
  • Google or Office Calendar