📚Write to-dos in the past tense and include context

Title: Kinder To Do Lists
Author: Beck Tench

My notes

Beck Tench says that the words you choose make a difference when you are writing a to do list. The normal way of writing to do produces a list of commands. This can lead to feelings of apprehension or being overwhelmed when you find yourself with a long list of things that have to be completed.

If instead you write items as suggestions, (Tench uses “intentions”) and include context then they change how you feel towards them. For example ‘Read Kinder to-do lists‘ would become ‘You thought reading Kinder to-do lists‘ could help with your blog post. Completing an item is more rewarding because it is more meaningful and not just a box-ticking exercise.

Checking of items now adds up to something more than winning whack-a-mole. It has become evidence that I am fulfilling promises, following up on good ideas, remembering my intentions-much more rewarding to me that “being productive” (Tench 2019)

I do believe language matters. I do think the words we use change the implication and feeling of what we say. Beck’s approach could resolve one issue I have with to-do lists and that’s that they’re bossy and demanding. It might also resolve a second issue and that’s feeling like a failure for not completing what I set out to do. This way round the items on the list aren’t promises to do something – they’re just reminders. By simply reading them their purpose has been fulfilled and they can be disposed of as I think best.  I’ve tried this out for a few days and I like it!


Tench, Beck. 2019. ‘Kinder To Do Lists’. I Am Beck Tench (blog). 2019. https://www.becktench.com/blog/2019/5/13/kinder-to-do-lists.