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Work from a list


Order your day to day work using your own list of work. This makes it easier to communicate your accomplishments and priorities. It’s also much easier to show your work to your team lead and get feedback.

Pain Points

  • You have trouble verbalizing what you accomplished
  • Boss keeps asking you what you’re working on
  • Boss asks what you did last week/month and you can’t remember
  • Something urgent comes up and you’re not sure what to re-prioritize
  • You have assignments from multiple projects and it’s hard to keep track of the active ones, much less the inactive ones
  • You have other, non-project work that has to be done that doesn’t show up in the project’s records


  • You’ve got one source to consult when going to the next task
  • Including all responsibilities keeps you from missing any of them
  • Easy to share and keep a light history
  • Easy to prioritize for yourself without affecting global priorities


✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental

Feedback Sources

  1. Where do you look for your next task? Should be your list.

Adoption Experiment

Steps to first adopt this practice:


  1. Put a notebook or legal pad beside your desk when you start to work
  2. Write down everything you intend to work on today
  3. On a second piece of paper, write down what you’re doing every 30 minutes
  4. At the end of the day, compare the planned work with the actual. Make a note of surprises.
  5. Repeat the exercise ever day for two weeks

Evaluate Feedback

  1. At the end of two weeks, are you still encountering surprises? Why?
  2. What percentage of your time do surprises take? Begin allocating that percentage of time for them.
  3. Was using your own list fast, easy, and more complete?

What Does it Look like?

Not everything on your list is a product feature. Tech items that need research, installation, and The GROWS™ Method experiments are all items that might (and should) be on your list.

  1. Once a day, or once every few days, you visit whatever other sources of work you have and add tasks to your personal list
  2. You can confidently answer questions about what you’ve worked on recently and will be working on next
  3. You easily add new tasks, re-prioritize and adjust tasks on your list as needed

Warning Signs

  • Items on the bottom of your list from last year that you’ll never do or get to
  • Missed items that you forgot you needed to do
  • Can’t access your list when needed
  • Spending too much time maintaining your list instead of performing tasks
  • Writing your own todo-list software

Growth Path

This is a pretty straight-forward practice, and there isn’t much to consider in terms of growing it. You might want to move from a paper-based or single file solution to something that’s more widely accessible like a web or mobile app. Or you might want to keep it simple. What fits your workflow best?

But resist the urge to add time-per-task metrics, reports, and that sort of thing. This is a personal productivity tool, not a data-driven witch hunt.

Exercises to Get Better

Expand your attention to encompass all sources of things you need to work on, not just the obvious ones.

How to Teach This Practice

Help someone look at their sources of tasks and responsibilities and make the first version of their list.

How To Fail Spectacularly

  • Not handling an emergency because it wasn’t on your list
  • Not having access to your list during meetings or other inconvenient times
  • Having a list and not asking for feedback on your priorities

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