I don’t always start my day with a checklist, but the days where I do seem to go better.

To access my checklist, I run a shell alias I made called start which opens it in Vim.

Here’s what it looks like:

My Morning Checklist


[ ] Close Slack / IRC / Messages
[ ] Enable Do Not Disturb
[ ] Process personal email inbox (remember 2-minute rule)
[ ] Process work email inbox (remember 2-minute rule)
[ ] Process Slack notifications
[ ] Check work calendar, anything pressing?


[ ] Process OmniFocus inbox (top to bottom)
[ ] Review all projects in Review tab


[ ] Switch to Work Hot perspective
[ ] If no items in Work Hot, go flag some things
[ ] Pick one and start working!

First, I sweep: I turn everything that might require action into an item in my todo software’s inbox (I use OmniFocus).

Next, I process that inbox and review my current projects.

Then, I get to work.

Some thoughts on individual items:

Process personal email inbox (remember 2-minute rule)

I process my personal email first so I can get it off my mind. I work better when my personal life is in order. Efficiency starts with a haircut.

“Remember 2-minute rule” means any email I can deal with in under two minutes gets tackled immediately. This idea (and others that shape my checklist) are from the excellent Getting Things Done.

If an email seems like it might require me to do something that will take more than 2 minutes, I forward it to a special address that creates an item for it in my OmniFocus inbox. I do this even if I’m not sure I’ll do the thing the email represents.

I then archive the email. I don’t like to leave emails around to represent todos. Todos go in OmniFocus, the sole source of what-I’m-going-to-do truth.

Process OmniFocus inbox

One of my favorite OmniFocus features is its inbox.

The inbox is a holding area for things that I want to consider doing. I dump items into it using OmniFocus’ macOS or iOS app, by telling Alexa, or by forwarding emails to a special address.

After I’ve swept everything that might need attention into that inbox, I process it. I explicitly remind myself to process from top to bottom because it’s tempting to go into cherry-picking mode. It’s faster to just be robotic about it and work in order.

For each item, I do one of three things:

  1. Delete it. Turns out I’m not going to do that!
  2. Turn it into a single action: “Buy new Nalgene”.
  3. Promote it into a multi-step project: “Go skiing with friends”. When I do this, I immediately come up with a first action for that project: “Send out Doodle to find available dates”.

Clearing the inbox feels amazing, by the way.

Review all projects in Review tab

I check in on each of my projects periodically to make sure a) I’m still going to do it, and b) it has a clear next action.

Switch to Work Hot perspective

This is a customized view in OmniFocus which shows me only work tasks that have been flagged. I flag things when I want to tackle them in the next day or two.

Pick one and start working!

This one’s kind of important.

Why do I use a checklist?

  • It minimizes the number of choices I have to make at the start of my day. I find this lowers the barrier to getting my work started.
  • If I want to build a new daily habit, I can just add it to the checklist! Since I’ve already built the habit to use my checklist, I can chain new behaviors on that habit for free. I stole this great idea from BJ Fogg.
  • It leaves me confident that I’ve swept, processed, and reviewed all my stuff. I start the day with a clear head and a confidence about what to do first.