Four Monkeys, a Viking, and a To-Do List

February 19, 2023

This afternoon I was enjoying an iced tea at a café here in Sri Lanka and there was a family of monkeys chilling on the rooftop.

Do I have your attention now? Good.

I threw in that bit about the monkeys to pique your interest; what I want to share has nothing to do with monkeys. (It was a very cute monkey family, though.)

At the café I was chatting with a new friend from Sweden. His name is Hugo, but let’s call him the Viking, because he truly looks like one. The Viking asked what I do for work, so I explained that I help people to be more productive and organized, et cetera. I asked him whether he uses any productivity apps. He does; he uses Miro, because he’s a very visual person. I’ve never tried Miro so I have no idea whether it’s any good, but it definitely seems very visual.

Anyway, I also asked the Viking about his productivity habits. (Yes, I really discuss these things with people I just met. There is a reason I’m in this line of work. 🙃) He said:

Every evening, I sit down and create tomorrow’s to-do list. I review today’s list and then I make a new list for tomorrow. This helps me sleep better and feel peaceful. It really works.

— Hugo the Viking

I absolutely loved this answer, because it is so intentional.

Hugo—sorry, the Viking—does not start his day answering whichever emails he happened to receive. (In fact, he says he only checks his email three times a week, even though he owns a e-commerce company with a small team.) In the morning, he does not frantically start working on whichever tasks feel the most overdue. Instead, he gets a cup of coffee and begins with item #1 on his to-do list. You know, the one he carefully prepared the night before.

Does the Viking never have business emergencies? Maybe he does. I mean, he probably does. But his habit is to sit down and work on tasks he has identified as high-impact tasks, which is a fabulous foundation.

What about you? How intentional are you about today’s to-do list? If you’re not very intentional, consider what might happen if you were. Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep better and to feel peaceful?

If you’re curious what might happen if you were to adopt the Viking’s habit, try it out today. Set a reminder for this evening to sit down and plan tomorrow. Maybe make it a reminder that recurs daily until it’s a habit and you no longer need the reminder.

But don’t stop there. While it’s always useful to plan tomorrow, you’ll get a lot more out of this new routine if you also have:

  • A master to-do list with all the tasks that you want/need to do at some point
  • A list of what you accomplished today and what you did not get around to
  • Clarity on (1) what your goals are and (2) which actions will move you closer towards achieving your goals

If you don’t have the first two, perhaps you might like to upgrade your to-do list with my Things course or my OmniFocus course. And if you don’t have the latter, check out Big-Picture Productivity.

Just today, one student who took Big-Picture Productivity wrote to me and said:

It took so many “courses” and “setups”, but your course really hit it home with the conceptual approach… so I used what I learned from the different approaches to make my own.

Can’t thank you enough! Your course was the glue I needed.

— Cito G.

That could be you, too.


Whatever you do, be intentional about how you use your time. And have a happy Sunday. Ciao!

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