How to Structure Your Task List

I saw a few tweets this week about how people use task lists and I thought I’d share my method. Over the last nine years or so, I’ve finally refined how I structure my daily task list. When I was a software engineering manager, I developed what I later discoved was simplified bullet journaling. This method also works with the Pomodoro Technique, which is working on a task for 25 minutes, then taking 5 minutes off.

Here’s what the task list looks like:


Every “big rock” task starts with a square next to it, with priority tasks getting an exclamation point. These are the things I work on during the 25-minute work window. The transitional tasks are things to do during the 5-minute off window. I try to make the transitional tasks simple, like emptying the dishwasher or folding the laundry in the dryer. (I work from home, so my transitional tasks are likely different from yours.)

The point with the transitional tasks is to do something completely different, away from a screen. This gives me a bit of a mental recharge and frequently helps me break through some blocker on code or a document I’m working on.

It should be obvious, but as I finish the tasks, they’re crossed off. If I can’t finish something, it gets pushed to the next day. Pushed tasks are usually the first thing I try to take care of the next day. One key is to avoid overloading your daily task list. I only put one or two big rock projects for a given day. Keeping it short and manageable helps me feel like my day isn’t getting away from me.

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