A daily to-do list I’ve stuck with for 6 months. Might work for you too.

I came across the 1-3-5 to-do list on the great productivity/creativity blog 99u (a lovely, quick daily read if you’re a productivity/creativity nerd like me).

Here’s how it works: The method assumes that every day you have enough time/energy for 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 small things.

For me, I approach assigning the size of a task with both how much time it will take me and how much energy it will take. Some things that won’t take long but I’m absolutely dreading might be a 1. Some things that take a bit longer but are super easy and fun may be a 5. There’s lots of room for personal customization in this system.

So, everyday I write down


and draw up my daily list.

On the schedule for today:
1 Music night (time with friends counts too!)
3 Read Engaged City Task Force final report, and draft a response
3 Lunch with Meriko
3 Draft notes for an AGM I’m taking part in next week
5 Move notes from my desktop into proper files
5 Review a pile of old articles from my Masters research for potential blog posts
5 Scrub bathroom floor
5 Go for a run
5 Reply to an internship applicant who wanted feedback on their interview/application

Some days I don’t get everything done — I’m exhausted or I have an unexpected visitor, etc. So some things carry over into the weekends. Unless absolutely necessary, I try to not to schedule work-like things (basically anything that requires me to be at a computer) for the weekends, but if I’m not as productive during the week, I might have to.

Alternatively, sometimes I get more than the list done. Today for example, I had a phone call with Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore to talk about a potential event for Canadian Women Voters Congress. I also wrote this post, which is actually something I meant to do yesterday.

My daily to do list is one of the few things that I keep on paper. Here’s what a week of to do lists looks like (the few notes at the top are *ahem* carry over from a lazy end to the week last week):


I draw all of my to-dos from my big MASTER to do list, which I keep on a free online tool called Workflowy. More on the amazeballs that is Workflowy in another post.

Some people start their weeks looking at their master to-do lists, and choosing 5 big things, 15 medium things, and 25 small things to do throughout the week. you can find templates for this online if you search for it. I like more flexibility.

How do you coordinate your to-do lists?


  1. Another super helpful post, Trina. I do a To Do list before I leave work each day for the next day, and often categorize importance/urgency levels by simply assigning a “deadline” to the tasks (most important are tomorrow, medium important are following day, etc.). Unfortunately, other life stuff is just fly by the seat of my pants (which likely does not surprise you). I like this more structured way of looking at things and I am going to try it out (at least at work for now) starting next week. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for sharing Lana. I try to be intentional about review my master to-do list in crafting my daily stuff, so as to focus on long-term priorities, and not just the emergencies/urgent stuff. It’s a tough balance…and I’m a single, child-less, self-employed person!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 × 4 =