Summary of S. J. Skott’s book “To-Do List Makeover: A Simple Guide to Getting The Most Important Things done”.

5 min readMar 19, 2019


Today we are going to share a short summary of the main ideas from S. J. Skott’s book “To-Do List Makeover: A Simple Guide to Getting The Most Important Things done”.

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It is unproductive to pack your to-do list with fragmentary thoughts, urgent tasks and approximate dates of completion.

Tasks, projects and ideas vary by their nature: some are urgent and require immediate attention, others need thinking over and elaboration but during free time, and the rest ones are impossible to complete without making a detailed action plan.

To work effectively and to focus on the main things without spending time for things that only seem important, one needs a system of 4 to-do lists.

1. The list of ideas. You put there any thought or potential project on which you would like to work in the future. Some of these ideas are easy to implement, other will never be implemented. The main thing is to add them to a separate list daily and go though them at least weekly.

2. The list of projects. If to complete this or that task it is required more than two actions, this list is the right place for them. It should have all the steps you need to take to implement the ideas into a complete project.

3. The list of weekly tasks. It is a plan that has all the upcoming routine actions, tasks deadlines, meetings and events which are necessary for progress on projects. Having put this data into you schedule, you will be able to evaluate how much time you will have for long-term projects.

4. The list of most important things for the day. It is that short note with 3 most important things you have to do in the beginning of the day before starting any other things. This list helps better focus not on tiny things but on a global picture of your tasks.

Why spend precious time to make four separate lists rather than sooner start doing what you have planned for the day. It is needed for:

· you to clearly see how to structure your work day;

· not missing any precious thought, task or deadline;

· you to focus on things which are really important, and to get busy with other ones when you have free time.

How to start acting?

We are considered to actively work when our motivation level is high, and start slacking off when we have little motivation. In reality we cannot start or finish a task if we have fear and on the bottom of our soul we are afraid of challenges awaiting us at work. What are the things that scare us?

· Uncertainty. It happens that we add a task to our to-do lists, not having thoroughly thought this task through. Then, during work we realize that we do not fully understand what the final result must be. This misunderstanding makes us nervous since we do not know what to do next. Eventually we start postponing solving this task as it seems too complicated.

· Defeat. Sometimes we exert maximum efforts, but we still fail. This subconscious awaiting for a possible failure can considerably influence our actions.

· Complexity. The more difficult task you have (for instance, a long multi-step project), the more you will postpone starting to work on it.

· Rejection. There are spheres you are not particularly strong in. That’s why all relevant tasks will make you feel unwilling to start them. There are two possible options: either you improve your skills in these spheres or delegate such tasks to somebody else. Unfortunately, if you ignore something unpleasant, it won’t disappear by itself.

What can you do to overcome these fears? Especially when you don’t want to do anything at all?

1. Get rid of all distracting factors:

-> email;

-> social networks;

-> text messages, messages and phone calls;

-> multitasking;

-> mess on a work table and computer;

-> noise.

2. Write down what stops you from acting. It is important to understand not only what the fears that stop you are, but also to get down to the reasons of your lack of motivation. Write down your stream of consciousness on the subject “What stops me from starting to work” for 15 minutes. Do you not know how to start? Does working on the task makes you leave your comfort zone? Do you have to work on a project which is not interesting for you?

3. Make a plan for overcoming challenges. If the task is too large or it has too many elements to it, break the task down to the parts which are easily manageable — you have a list of projects for that. Having successfully completed the first step, you will receive a burst of energy to make next steps.

4. Make all the necessary preparations so you don’t have a pretext to postpone starting to work: print out the documents in advance, read the relevant materials, install computer programs you need.

5. Attune yourself to starting to work. Having not started a task, you will never finish it, not matter how much you stress about it. Don’t lament how much you have to do until the end of the work day or that you can face failure. Think about “here and now” and focus on making the necessary work well and on time. Make it a habit to act making a small step forward each time. A successful first step will give you a burst of optimism and push you to making next steps.

6. Thing about an award. If you сorrelate completing each task with receiving an award in the long run, you will be more motivated for a quick and successful completion of work. Analyze what positive results will be ensured by making each task from the to-do lists in terms of promotion, bonus or achieving a personal goal.

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Use methods of increasing efficiency and fighting against procrastination and focus on the most important things. This simple advice will work only under one condition: if you will follow them using the tools which are really effective for you.

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We are trying to be interesting and useful for you, that is why your opinion is important for us! Did you like our short review of the book? Would you like to see similar reviews of the useful books about finances? Would you like a more detailed summary of this book?