The To-Do List Formula: A Book Review

Nerd Alert! I LOVE to-do lists. As a person prone to anxiety, I tend to gravitate towards things that help me to keep balance and a sense of control in a hectic world. With that being said, I am excited to share about a great little book I read this morning: The To-Do List Formula, by Damon Zahariades.

Insights Gained

Prior to reading this book, I thought it would just affirm everything that I know about the benefits of listing priorities; in fact, I planned to just skim it to see if it would be useful to some of my clients. I was very wrong, as I gained a lot of good insight from the book.

The author encourages the readers to take what they need and to leave the rest, which I can appreciate (Nothing worse than a self-help book that jams its principles down your throat and shames you for not following every step.) I also got a lot from the chapters that focused on the ways that to-do lists can go wrong.

“Productivity Paradox: We create to-do lists to help us organize tasks, manage our time, and get things done. But because we rely on ill-conceived task management systems, we inadvertently create lists that sabotage our efforts. In doing so, we forfeit our productivity. We end up getting less done instead of more.”

Other Noteworthy Quotes

  • “A to-do list without deadlines is a wish list. Nothing more. Without deadlines, we lean toward inaction.”
  • “It’s important to recognize the impact our emotions have on our productivity. When we’re unhappy, stressed, or fearful, our productivity suffers. We feel disengaged from our work, regardless of its role in achieving our goals. We’re also less creative and have more difficulty making decisions. Moreover, we lose focus and become more easily distracted […] This may seem unrelated to your to-do lists. On the contrary, your emotional state plays a significant role in how successfully you work from your lists.”

My to-do list, separated by daily tasks in blue and weekly tasks in purple.


I loved the exercise in the book where you answer questions that help to gauge if you’re struggling with some of the to-do list pitfalls. I was shocked when I didn’t score on the most successful tier. Here’s one of the areas that I need to improve upon:

  • Each item on the to-do list needs to say WHY the item needs to be done. My why for many of the items on my list (above) relate to self-care and to never stop learning.


In these times where many of us are working from home, juggling our professional lives, relationships, and childcare, I definitely recommend The To-Do List Formula to teens and adults (paid link).

For my previous post on the benefits of list-making for anxiety, click here.

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