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The Teaching Space Podcast

The podcast is on pause for a year (as of August 2021) as I am tackling the final year of my masters in education (which I am doing alongside my full-time job). In the meantime, please revisit the considerable back catalogue of episodes. Also, give me a follow on Twitter, where I am still very active and sign up for my personal newsletter here. You can visit The Teaching Space website here:

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Oct 26, 2018

Episode 35 of The Teaching Space Podcast is all about how to use a to-do list PROPERLY! 


We all know I like to geek out on productivity apps - this is not one of those episodes! Well, not entirely.

In today’s show we are focusing on how to use a to-do list properly, regardless of the method you use. OK there might be a bit of app talk, but I will keep it to a minimum.

Let’s get the app talk out the way first…

Do you Need an App?

No. Pen and paper works fine.

But if you want an app, then there are lots of amazing ones on the market.

App advantages:

  • The ability to re-order your list without re-writing it. 
  • Cross-platform accessibility and portability.
  • Backups.

Task or Project Manager?

If you ARE going down the digital route: do you need a task management or project management app? 

To understand your needs, analyse the work you need to organise. 

At a guess: your work is probably project-based rather than task based. Example: if you have a pile of marking to do, the process has multiple tasks (each paper is a task). That means you have a project to complete. Which would suggest you need to go down the project management tool route.

However, you might find a task manager gives you enough flexibility if you set it up to suit your needs.

Test them out - see what you like.

What Goes On the List?

Everything. I repeat, everything.

One of the main ways people fail at using a to-do list is they have tasks stored in multiple places. Examples: your head, your email inbox, sticky notes…

One of the main benefits of using a list is that you have everything in one place. Get things out of your head and inbox and put them on the list.

Once you have a clear idea on everything you need to do, you can start prioritising, planning and get organised.

But What About My Calendar?

Think of your calendar as your to-do list’s partner.

Everything that has a scheduled time should go on your calendar (meetings and appointments). There is no need to put them on your to-do list, as long as you look at your calendar and your list when you plan your day.

Consider allocating time to complete your tasks on your calendar.

Why Can’t I Use my Email Inbox as a To Do List?


  • You are not in control of incoming items - if you inbox is your to-do list, anyone can add to it at any time.
  • It's hard to see what the actual "to-do" item is without opening the email and spending time reading it. People rarely give their emails descriptive subjects.
  • Your inbox is no longer an effective inbox - treating your email like a to-do list makes an inefficient to-do list, but it also creates an inefficient email inbox.
  • Have a look at this: Inbox Zero blog post. 

Ideas and Recommendations:

  • If you are using pen and paper, use a yellow legal pad. It will be easy to spot on your desk. Re-write it daily.
  • Review your to-do list every day - either first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  • Put EVERYTHING on it (I know I have said this before but it is so important it bears repeating!)

Digital Tools I Like: 

  • Workflowy
  • Wunderlist
  • Trello
  • Asana

A non-digital option is bullet journalling.


  1. Pick your tool.
  2. Everything goes in it except for events which are on your calendar. 
  3. Do not use your email inbox as a to-do list.
  4. Create a to-do list and calendar checking routine daily. 

Wrap Up

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