How Many Items To Have On A To-Do List?

To-do lists can be a great way to add structure to your day. But how many items should be there on your to-do list?

Ideally, you should put in only the tasks that you can absolutely finish during a day.

So for someone who’s just starting out with a to-do list, 2-3 items are enough. 

While for those who are used to writing down the list, no more than 7 items should be more than enough.

It’s not about the number of items on the list. It’s about how many items you tick off the list. 

Why you shouldn’t have too many items on your list?

Would you be able to complete 30 tasks during the day?

First of all, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed when you see so many different items.

Second, 30 is a big number and you won’t have enough time to do them all. 

And whenever you don’t finish a task, it stays in the back of your mind. That’s not where you have to steer into.

Instead, you want to build a good self-image about your capabilities in your mind.

Third, even if you do manage to tick off everything from your list, can you sustain that approach for a long time? Most likely not.

So a good rule of thumb is to keep things manageable and only put only those items which you feel confident about finishing.

What happens if I put too few items on the to-do list?

In this case, you won’t push your comfort zone. The more comfortable you get with the list, it’s easy to tick off one or two tasks. 

Over a period of time, this becomes a habit. But if you want to extract the most out of your list, try to push your limits.

It’s similar to any form of physical training.

The sweet spot is always somewhere in the middle.

When is it okay to put too few items on the to-do list?  

If you’re new to lists, it’s okay if you put just 1-2 items. 

At this stage, the more important thing is to build a habit, rather than make the most out of this productivity tool.

Once you have a habit in place, add one more item every time. 

There’s another approach based on the same theme – the 1-3-5 method of productivity.

What is the 1-3-5 method of productivity?

The 1-3-5 method of productivity is based on a simple philosophy of completing 1 Big task – 3 Medium tasks – 5 Large tasks in a day.

It can be a good method of productivity to follow. However, if you don’t finish your tasks you might not feel happy about your productivity system.

What is the Ivy Lee Method of Productivity?

For to-do lists, this is another method you can use. 

In this case, list out the 6 tasks you need to finish during the day. Prepare this list the night before the day begins. 

Next up, prioritize these tasks according to their order of importance. 

As you start you working, focus only on the tasks you need to finish, one at a time. 

Also, there’s no hard and fast rule about putting only 6 items on the list. 

The key is to keep the list short and give yourself a realistic chance of finishing it!

Otherwise, it gets carried over to the next day.


I hope this has given you a clear idea of how many items you should have on your to-do list. 

Add too many items to the list and you’ll feel overwhelmed. Add too little and you won’t push past your comfort zone.

So remember, the sweet spot is in the middle.

The technique of using to-do lists is advocated by many time management experts. Check out the best productivity blogs written by experts by clicking on the highlighted link.

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