This Simple To-Do List Hack Could Make You Happier at Work

Looking for a better way to organize your to-do list? This simple strategy only takes 5–10 minutes to complete but could save you hours each day.
Matthew Ritchie
November 11, 2022
4 minute read

Less is more. But few people seem to follow that maxim—especially when it comes to their to-do lists.

Traditionally, to-do lists reduce anxiety by providing a structure and plan for getting things done. And there’s evidence to back that up. (A 2011 study found that planning which tasks to tackle in the future reduces the likelihood of ruminating on them in the present.)

But most people have a funny habit of overloading their schedules. Tasks and responsibilities compound. And, over time, our to-do lists become unmanageable.

It’s a common problem and one that was recently discussed by Leidy Klotz—author of Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less—with Harvard professor and bestselling author Arthur C. Brooks on his podcast, How to Build a Happy Life.

In an episode titled “Subtraction as Solution,” Klotz details the biological reasons and psychological impacts of doing more.

But buried in the episode (and absent from the transcript) is a simple and effective productivity hack for gaining control of your daily to-dos.

Here’s how it works:

First, split your to-do list into two columns

Brooks suggests listing things you have to get done in one column and things you want to get done in the other.

A have would be a task like preparing a slide deck for an upcoming sales call.

A want would be something like going to the gym for a 40 min workout.

Then, prioritize your to-do list from 1–10

According to Brooks, the top five will naturally end up being a mixture of things you really have to do and things you really want to do.

The bottom five, on the other hand, will end up being a list of to-dos that are a “little less urgent” and a “little less fun,” but should be completed.

"I make that list,” Brooks says. “Then, I cross out the bottom five and I don’t do them.”

Why does it work?

It may seem ruthless, but anyone who has read Essentialism or other modern productivity books has probably encountered similar ideas before.

By narrowing down what needs to get done and what will provide you with the most joy, you’re making space to focus on what matters and eliminating anything that doesn’t.

Of course, those “shoulds” may end up back on your to-do list in the future. Or they may not. You won’t know until the time comes.

But in the short term, this simple method should help clear your mind (and schedule) to be fully present in the moment.

Easier said than done? Maybe. Our lives are busy, and removing half the tasks from your to-do list isn’t always possible.

But this simple hack offers an easy framework for organizing your day, especially if you’re overwhelmed. And, at the very least, it’s a good reminder: sometimes less is more.

P.S. You can now add checklists to your notes in Nook. Sign up to get early access.

Whether you’re a sales superstar, in-demand consultant, busy recruiter, or someone who simply needs to schedule a lot of meetings, one thing’s for sure—you’ve probably booked a lot of them over the past two years.

Hybrid work has forced the majority of our meetings online, and while we appreciate being able to wear sweatpants during normal work hours, the time-consuming ballet that is sharing your availability, finding a time to meet, and adding it to your calendar isn’t quite as enjoyable. 

Speaking with everyone from solopreneurs to seasoned professionals, it seems like a lot of people find meeting scheduling software either costly, impersonal, or just plain boring. And Calendly and other alternatives don’t always cut it.

We hear you. 

Everyone is different, and so is how they work. Making good first impressions is important, and you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for them or basic customizations and integrations with your meeting booking system.

Nook Calendar’s meeting proposal feature is already used by tons of high-performing teams for selecting and proposing meeting times outside of their organization. 

Now, we’re making things even easier by letting you build personal pages with shareable calendar-booking links, right in Nook Calendar. Add them to your LinkedIn profile, email signature, website, or messages when finding a time to meet.

We think it’s the best meeting scheduling software out there, and we’re excited for you to give it a try, so let’s get started.

Here’s How to Set Up a Personal Booking Page in Nook Calendar

First off, if you’re new to Nook Calendar—hello! (If you’re already a Nook user, you can skip ahead.)

You’re going to start by syncing your calendar—either from Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook—and entering your work email address.

Once you approve any necessary permissions, you’ll set up your People Bar. Search for any connections and add the people you interact with the most when scheduling meetings.

From there, you can add any additional calendars you want to see (add your personal one, if you like, to further prevent any overlaps when scheduling meetings), integrate with Zoom (so you can launch calls straight from your calendar), and choose your preferred display setting—select Match OS, Light Mode, or Dark Mode.

Launch Nook Calendar, and you’re ready to set up your online meeting scheduler.

Now, the fun begins

You’re going to start by claiming your unique URL for sharing your meeting availability page. 

Your first name appears by default, but really, it can be anything. We recommend using your full name (e.g., /john-smith).

(You can always change your URL in the future, as long as it’s still available.)

From there, you want to complete your profile. 

Your profile pic is automatically pulled in from your Microsoft or GCal account.

But you can add your name, job title, welcome message, and links to social media profiles or professional website, so guests know a bit more about you when booking a meeting. 

Then, you can start setting your weekly availability.

Nook Calendar defaults to traditional time blocks—9–12 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. These are the hours someone can book a meeting from your personal page. Adjust them based on your availability. 

Your timezone is automatically set to your local time, but you can change it if you primarily work with people in a different timezone and it’s better to visualize that when setting your availability.

Choose which calendar you want to accept meetings in—it can only be booked in one, but Nook Calendar will automatically reference your availability in other calendars you’ve synced to prevent double-bookings when someone schedules a meeting.

Now, it’s time to set up some paramaters. 

You can set up your preferred meeting duration in either 15, 30, 45-minute or one-hour increments (or a custom time).

You can also add buffer time to give yourself a break between meetings, or set a lead time of up to 24 hours, so no one can book any last-minute meetings.

And you’re all set! You can preview what the page will look like, then share it with contacts or add it to your LinkedIn profile (we suggest adding it as a secondary URL), email signature, and anywhere else you do business.

Once someone books time in your calendar, you’ll receive an email and get a notification in the Pulse.

If you ever need to make any changes, you can access your personal meeting page in the bottom of the Magic Panel and make any adjustments—either to your weekly availability or personal information.

You can also remove your availability by simply creating events in Nook Calendar and marking them as Busy to block off time and prevent any bookings.

Nook Calendar’s new personal pages for sharing meeting availability are available on Web, iOS, and Android. 
If you have any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them. Hit us up in our Slack Community or contact us through Support.