Index Card To-Do List


I recently bought the eBook of Ryan Holiday’s “The Obstacle is the Way”, which I can highly recommend. It condenses some of the lessons of Stoicism, and from inspiring individuals in history, and applies them to situations all of us face in life.

There was a bonus interview at the end between Holiday and Tim Ferriss, author of the epinimous “The 4-Hour Workweek”. I was stunned that both of these highly productive people independently shared the same to-do system.

Here it is then, the (evening) Index Card to-do list.


This system uses

  • A stack of index cards (you can get 1000 for under $10, so they needn’t be expensive)
  • A bit of self discipline to set things up the night before



index to do

1. As one of the last things you do in your workday (or just before you go to bed at night), write down all the things you would like to get done tomorrow. In the evening “if I had a genie in a bottle” thinking comes easily.

2. Include small things, like responding to a particular email, as well as big things, converted into actionable things to do (“make a shortlist of books to read for research” over “write a novel”.

3. You may wish to divide your card into “work” and “life” activities, or mix them all together.

3. Do these things the next day. Doing the most important thing first is always a good policy. But with such a small list, using positive procrastination can soon have you finishing all of the things on your list.



  • A very simple system, that can easily become second nature.



  • If you are busy in an evening or forget, you can sometimes “fall off the wagon” with this system.
  • You need to have a supply of index cards on hand.




  • This is a variation on the more famous “Post-It Note” to-do system. Personally I find that too little space, and an A4 page much too long: pick the amount of space that works best for you.
  • If you run out of cards, in an emergency just remember that a card is most often 3×5 inches, or 7.6 x 12.7 cm. If you don’t want to measure this out exactly, I sometimes just use a regular piece of paper cut into quarters.
  • Buy a box and you can add appointments into your card directly, ahead of time. 
  • Get a neat little purse to carry your currently used cards in.


Our Rating

A really great, simple system, that condenses essential aspects of a good to-do system.

Your Thoughts

Have you tried this system? What are your experiences working with it? Any pros, cons, variations, or tips?

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