How To Unclutter Your Task List

Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by lisaclarke

Sometimes our task lists can be like the freezer you throw something into and slam the door before everything comes tumbling out. (And nails you on the toe). We pile more and more onto the list, never quite sure what is already in there, but knowing we won’t get to everything. It becomes a scary place, and we stop going there.

It’s easy to get a task list under control again, with a little uncluttering with the 5 T’s:


Chances are if your task list has grown to epic proportions, there are a lot of things on there that really don’t need to be done. Going through each item and assessing its worth to you and your family in the framework of your current projects and interests will give you a basis for getting rid of things that no longer fit. If your task list says “enroll in MBA program” when you are not interested in getting an MBA, this could be safely deleted.


Once the list is smaller, you can trim it back further by getting rid of things that need to be done, but not right now. Having a place to keep these future tasks ensures you will not lose track of them, yet get them off your current task list. Moving a “learn travel German” to another list will ensure you don’t lose track of it before your planned trip in three years.

Trimming back the tasks themselves can also be helpful. Decreasing the scope of the task will limit what needs to be done. Instead of “clean the carpets” a task could be “clean the living room carpet”.


Sometimes the tasks on the list are not the ones that really need to be done. Many people put things on their lists because they think it “should” be done. Sometimes only portions of the task apply to us. For example, my mother, a heavy smoker, washed her all of walls twice a year when I was growing up. I don’t do this, because my walls don’t need it. But I do wash down the kitchen walls around the stove twice a year because it collects dirt from cooking.


Delegation is a great way to slim down a task list. Pick tasks that need to be done, but not necessarily by you, and find a volunteer. “Put recycling to the curb” is a good task for an older child, for example. The key to transferring tasks to another, though, is to let go of how they do it; and if there is a deadline, that has to be communicated (such as “put the recycling to the curb in the next hour”).


Many items on a task list stay there because we don’t get to them. They’re not particularly big, or involved, but the sheer number can bulk up a list quickly. Take 15 minutes and tackle as many of these tasks as possible (use a timer!) and watch your task list deflate.

What are some of the ways that you unclutter your task lists? Share below.

Photo by lisaclarke


  1. Busy Signals says

    There’s an “S” I’d add to the “T”s–Start over! I very often find if a list has become too stale, it’s best just to start fresh. It might help to just chuck the list and literally start from scratch, but if you’re concerned that there are critical things on the current list you don’t want to forget, take a couple minutes and highlight around 20% of them that have the most payoff or the worst consequences, and use those to seed the new list.