“To-Do” List Alternatives

Tackle Box

Do you love a “to-do” list—or not?

When it comes to productivity advice, certainly one of the most common suggestions is, “Make a to-do list, and check off the items as you go.”

But is that universally helpful advice? I enjoy making and using to-do lists, and this is great advice—for me. And for many people. But it’s not necessarily great advice for everyone.

The most important thing I’ve learned in my study of happiness and good habits: There’s no single best way to make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. There’s no magic, one-size-fits-all tool.

You might think, “Well, to help yourself think about what you want to get done, a to-do list is just the simplest and best way.” But no! For different people, a different approach might suit better. For instance…

  • To-do list: I love a to-do list. I have one in front of me on my desk at this very moment.
  • Ta-da list: I was surprised to learn that many people get very fired up by making a ta-da list. By reminding themselves of everything they’ve already accomplished, they find the drive to continue.
  • Could-do list: Some people do better when they’re reminded that they have a choice. They make a “could-do” list, of everything they could do, if they feel like it. (Rebels, looking at you!)
  • To-day list: Some people get overwhelmed when they think of everything they need to do. By focusing on what needs to get done today, they stay focused and productive.

Because I’ve learned that different people do their best work by approaching their aims with different tools…I’ve created those tools!

Check out this cunning “Tackle Box” of sticky pads for making your to-do lists, could-do lists, ta-da lists, or to-day lists. (Clever pun alert: It’s called a “tackle box” because it’s in the shape of a box used for fishing tackle, and because it helps you think about what you want to tackle.)

Plus there’s a fifth sticky pad, “To-Doodle”—many people think better when they’re doodling or drawing, and sometimes we want freedom from lines and lists.

If you keep telling yourself—or someone else—to use a to-do list, and that method isn’t working, try something new. There are many different ways to build the lives we want, and it’s much easier when we do it in the way that’s right for us.

If you want to read about how the Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel Tendencies might influence how you or someone else might use these kinds of lists, and what might work better, read here.

If you want to listen to Elizabeth and me talk about ta-da lists on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, it’s here.

Here’s the official description of the The Tackle Box:

The Tackle Box is filled with five sticky pads to help you stay organized and tackle your daily tasks. The tin box includes “To Do” and “To Day” lists to check off your tasks, a “Ta-Da” list to celebrate your accomplishments, a “Could Do” list to keep your options open, and a “To Doodle” pad to let your creativity flow. Productivity looks different for everyone, and The Tackle Box is designed to help you find what works for you.

I get such a kick out of the actual names of these pads, and how they all cleverly play off the phrase “to-do”:

  • to-do > to-day
  • to-do > ta-da
  • to-do > could-do
  • to-do > to-doodle

Another distinction: some people love a sticky pad, and others, not so much. I love a sticky pad! How about you?

To create these, I worked with an extraordinary team, including brilliant art director Emy Joyeux (her name means “happy” in French, how apt is that?), Lindsay Logan, Hannah Wilson, Anne Mercogliano, and super-star illustrator Ana Miminoshvili.

Which style of list appeals most to you? Can you think of another variation on the “to-do” list that should be added to the Tackle Box?



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