Calendar Driven To-Do List

237 Deep Dive Mitch Matthews

Calendar Driven To-Do List

This week we dive into a time management strategy I call “Calendar-Driven To-Do Lists.” You know I’m a huge fan of To-Do List’s… and I’m guessing you are too. To-Do lists can help us focus, get more done and implement like ninjas!!! BUT there’s a dangerous side to To-Do lists too. They can work FOR you… but if they’re done wrong… they can work AGAINST you. In this episode… we dive in a 3-step process for keeping your To-Do list working FOR you… so that you can end the day feeling like you have gas left in the tank, feeling satisfied with what you have accomplished AND feeling great about tomorrow!





[Tweet ““Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar”]


So… we’re all busy… but if you’re listening to DREAM THINK DO… that also means that you’re all about going after your dreams… your goals… your passions.

BUT we all have the same 24 hours in a day… whether we have 2 bucks or 2 billion… we all have 24 hours. The key is to figure out the best way to use your 24!

We’re going to be using TWO tools.

The calendar and the to-do list.

We’re going to start with the to-do list and then we’ll talk about the calendar.

NOTE: You can use a paper system… but it’s a little more challenging. I’d suggest using an electronic version… like Asana.

SIDE NOTE: A key is being able to see the tasks you have accomplished AND the tasks you still need to accomplish. You gotta have the satisfaction of checking those things off the list.


If you’re using an app… (and I highly encourage that) this is your first step.

Create a “Main To-Do List.”

This is where you can dump all the things you need to do in one spot.


Now, I want you to take the next step and create some new categories (or projects… depending on your app) for each day of the week:

  • MON
  • TUES
  • WED
  • FRI


Now… you can start this process at any time… but it’s best if you can plan for tomorrow… today. So if it’s Thursday as you listen to this… you can implement right away but start by planning for Friday.

So you can get the process in place for tomorrow and get ready to wake up clear and ready to go.


Start thinking about tomorrow. As you look at your “Main To-Do list,” think about what’s most important… what’s most urgent… and what needs to get done tomorrow.

Move the things from your “Main List” over to your Friday list.


NOW… comes our second tool… and STEP 3: your calendar.

As we look at the items on our to-do list for Friday… I want you to find a specific time on your calendar and make an appointment with yourself to get those things done.

For the bigger… more important projects… block out a specific time and name it. (ie. 9 to 10 am for Project X and 11 to noon for Project Y.)

Now… I know some of you don’t have total control over your calendar. So other people may be able to schedule things without your control… and/or you might have a lot of people who can see your calendar… and if so… that sucks… but it’s a reality.

So if it’s not appropriate for you to name a specific task on your calendar… then you can block out time for “ADMIN” or “STRATEGY” or IMPLEMENTATION. Use whatever term would be best in your organization.

BUT… if you don’t have to deal with that… your calendar is your own… then don’t worry about it.

Get specific. Find a time block for each larger task.

As you think about the type of project or task and ask yourself: “What’s the best time of day to do this kind of task?”

For example, for me: It’s best if I do content creation (creative writing, podcast prep, training prep) in the mornings. Then I’m better with being a part of meetings in the afternoon.

Also… I do “time bundling.” So, Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be for my coaching clients. Thursdays and Fridays are often for speaking events. So I bundle my content creation around those types of rhythms. But we’ll talk about “time bundling” in the future.

Okay… let’s get back to YOU and our exercise.

So it’s Thursday.

We’re looking at our tasks and our schedule for Friday. We’re going to schedule a specific time for the bigger to-dos. And then we’ll create a block of time for the smaller to-dos.

Okay… now things are starting to take shape.

Now… obviously… you’ve probably got some other things on your calendar besides your to-dos. You might have classes… or meetings… or appointments. Right?

If so… you have to be real with yourself.

Is there drive time? Put it in there. That way you know your plan is realistic. Is there time to eat lunch? Even just 15 to 30 minutes to breath… and eat. Get it in there.

I know that might seem super anal… and… it might be… BUT… it allows you to get more done in a day… AND… also feel really satisfied at the end of the day.

So… assign a time to each task… or a window of time for a group of smaller tasks.

And if you can’t find the time… then you either know you need to:

A.) Move the to-do item to a different day

B.) Adjust your schedule to make more room for it

C.) Or… violate all sorts of international laws and just clone yourself

D.) And we all know c isn’t an option… no matter how tempting it is!

That’s it.

You do the planning the day before… so you can wake up… and hit your desk with a plan. And get more done in less time.

The only thing we didn’t mention is that you need to create a specific block of time… to prep your schedule for the next day.

You might want 30 minutes to begin with but as you start to get good with it… you’ll probably be able to get it down to 15 minutes.

Now… let’s say Friday hits. You get a bunch done… check those bad boys off the list and give yourself a high five and a slap on the back. BUT… there might be a few things that don’t get done. That’s okay. Grace abounds. But now you can decide where those items go… whether it’s over the weekend or next week.

BUT you don’t have to worry about forgetting about them… because they’re still on the list. AND… as new tasks come in… you can put them on the master list and then… when you get to your daily planning session… you can decide exactly when you’re going to get them done and schedule them accordingly.

Now… one last thing… and this is because we always try to help you to dream bigger… think better and do more of the awesome stuff you were put on the planet to do…

We also try to do it so you can apply all of this in the real world.

So… for some of you… right now… you’re in a position where you’re in total control or almost total control of your schedule and your to-do list. And if that’s you… awesome. Well done. But for some of you… you’re in a role where you don’t have as much control over what you do and when you do it.

So coming back around to my executive coaching client… who’s working on his side hustle. Even though he’s a high-level leader… he has very little control over his actual schedule because so many things are pulling at him.

So he doesn’t do this for his full schedule… but he does it for his 30 minutes a day.

That’s right. He’s got the system for Monday through the weekend… and he has his one to two things he’s going to do with his 30 minutes each day. Because the key is to not waste any of that 30 minutes… deciding what you’re going to be doing THAT day. He can just dive in and get to it.

Then he spends his last 5 minutes of each 30-minute block… thinking about what he’s going to do the next day.


The Calendar driven to-do list.

STEP 1: Start with a master to-do list.

STEP 2: Break it down into daily to-do lists and decide what you’re going to do each day.

STEP 3: Filter that list through your calendar and make sure you have time to do those things and you know when you’re going to do them. (And if you don’t have time… either change your schedule OR move the to-do list to another day.)

With these three steps, you’ll get more done in less time. AND you’ll feel so much more satisfied at the end of the day too!
Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions and/or to let me know what clicks with you! Plus, I’d love to hear some of YOUR hacks and strategies for ninja-level priority management!

Quick Episode Summary:

  • 1:22 Let’s talk time management!
  • 3:00 Overwhelming to-do list
  • 4:38 Marrying your calendar and to-do list
  • 7:37 A new strategy for app to-do list
  • 8:28 Creating subcategories
  • 9:39 The one thing to avoid
  • 11:07 Be realistic with your to-list
  • 12:33 Creating a time frame
  • 15:35 Rescheduling tasks
  • 19:17 When new to-dos come
  • 20:20 Step recap
  • 22:20 Make it your own
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