Self Improvement

Separate Your To-Do Lists By Location And Get Things Done

Mihir Patkar 27-12-2014

The sight of a long to-list can be overwhelming — even paralyzing. Unfinished tasks make us conscious of just how much we still have to do. An effective solution is to maintain different task lists, based on the place you are at.


There’s a popular meme that amusingly sums up the effect of looking at several tasks on your plate:


We’ve all felt that at some point. You need to dig yourself out of your task backlog 10 Ways To Dig Yourself Out Of Task Backlogs The feeling of drowning in a list of never ending tasks is a fear common to all of us. The cure is available. Here are ten ways to claw your way back. Read More . Try creating to-do lists keeping in mind the place and tools you will have at that time.

Why You Should Categorize Tasks By Place


Being in different situations triggers our brain to think differently. For example, the act of sitting at your work desk puts you in “work mode”, or wearing your track-pants and headphones sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to start exercising.


In my experience, once you start segregating your lists by place, you slowly condition yourself to tackle certain tasks based on your environment. If taking a coffee break and getting out of your chair is associated with returning a phone call, you will eventually develop a habit of doing that; and just like that, one item on your to-do list is scratched off.

The other upside, as mentioned above, is that your to-do list appears much smaller and manageable. You know that when you are at your work desk, you don’t have to return calls; it’s not a task you have to even spend any mindspace on, it’s meant for later.

Finally, the more you categorize your to-do list by environments, the more you discover pockets of time in your day to accomplish simple tasks. For example, Lifehacker’s shower review system shows how you can take stock of your life and make improvements while utilising previously unproductive shower time.

How To Categorize Tasks By Place



In a typical day in your life, identify at least four activities that repeat. Also, identify the devices you have access to at this time. To draw an example from my system, these four places are:

  1. Morning -> Gym -> Phone
  2. Afternoon -> Work Desk -> PC, Phone, Tablet
  3. Early Evening -> Coffee Shop -> Phone
  4. Post-Dinner -> Bedroom -> Phone, Tablet, TV

At the start of each of these routines, I take time out to determine which tasks need to be done and can be done while I’m carrying out my routine. For example, my coffee shop time is linked to two tasks: returning phone calls I’ve received during work hours, and playing Chess. My work desk is linked to writing and editing. Gym time is catching up with different news feeds.

You can use a cross-platform to-do list app like Any.Do to sort all of these into different lists within the app. But I would recommend using different apps for each place.

Why You Should Use Different To-Do List Apps



There are plenty of great apps for managing to-do lists on Android The 10 Best Android Apps for Managing To-Do Lists Looking for the best to-do list apps on Android? Check out these great task management apps that let you stay on top of your tasks. Read More , iOS, Web and other platforms, but when you put all your lists into one app, you end up with that huge list of unfinished tasks. Most apps have a big read number notifying you about the number of pending actions, which misses the point of making our list seem more doable.

Instead, create a new to-do list for each place, starting with a blank slate every day. For example, for my work desk to-do list, I like to use Google Chrome’s Momentum, a super-useful and beautiful start screen extension 2 Super-Useful Browser Start Screens You Should Start Using Today Ah, the new tab page. Such a great opportunity for productivity that so often goes to waste. And it's hard to find the perfect one. Read More that is a simple list of the things I have to do while at my work desk. I write them out, and at the end of the day, I delete them all, irrespective of whether I’ve finished them or not.

Similarly, Truedialer [No Longer Available] (read our review Looking For A Smart Dialer App For Android? Truedialer Delivers Truedialer, a new app from Truecaller, can show you what unknown number you're about to call and can greatly improve the calling experience on your Android device. Read More ) has become my go-to app to see the calls I need to return — especially since it lists people whose number I don’t have in my address book, saving me the trouble of not returning unimportant calls.

If you want to ensure that you don’t miss anything important, maintain an overall to-do list to add stuff for the future as it comes up. However, you will only review this list once in a day (ideally just before you sleep), because the number of items on it will quickly grow and be intimidating. It’s probably best to use a cross-platform app like the aforementioned Any.Do here so that adding items is easy.


What’s Your Productivity Method?

Productivity is subjective. Everyone has their own system to tackle the things they have to do 3 Types of Lists That Actually Help You Be More Productive To-do lists are the ultimate productivity weapon. These to-do lists could give you all the power you need to get things done. Read More . Some might prefer to sort their tasks by emotion, others by the amount of time available, and then there’s the aforementioned method of categorizing by place and environment. So tell us, what’s your productivity secret?

Image Credits: FaceMePLS, Robert Couse-Baker, CQuadratNet, len-k-a, Tim Pierce.

Related topics: GTD, Task Management, Time Management, To-Do List.

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  1. Charles White
    March 27, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Doing away with "master-to-do-list" is an enticing idea. Now a days even devices allow you do have multiple To Do lists and calendars. Worth trying. The only drawback I see is a situation when you really....kind of really get stuck at one location and then you may not have access to the To-do List which is at other location.

    Some of us use the free calendar at It can allow you with multiple calendars and To-Do Lists.

    Do away with master list might be a good idea as color coding hasnt worked for me yet :(..Besides it gives you a feeling that you will catch up with the tasks soon which can motivate a lot of people.

  2. Pete
    December 30, 2014 at 8:22 am

    So you've just described GTD without mentioning GTD... (Apart feom loosely in the headline). Nice...

    Multiple use of differing apps for context based task lists sounds like adding complexity to a system that could in turn create that feeling of needing a nap again.

    Whatever works I guess?

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

      You mean David Allen's GTD? Naah, this is different. While one of Allen's recommendations is similar to what the headline says, the method here is about setting up different apps for different locations. That's the big takeaway. You don't have one "master to-do list" any more, and the result is that your task list seems smaller because each place has its own things to do.