About 2 decade back when I started my career as a programmer, I relied on a to do lists extensively. And it helped me. Whatever my tasks were, I would put it up in there and go through them one by one until am done with the list and the feature is read for QA. Heck, that is so powerful that Github now has a task list feature.
Over the years, these to do lists have evolved - everyone remember Wunderlist?
A decade back, I moved into product management, and for the first few years I continued using my trusted to-do list approach to get things done. But, I realized something was off. My lists kept getting longer and most of the items sat there collecting dust. Every morning I would get a whole barrage of notifications about all the tasks that I haven't completed.
Later I even changed my approach. Maintain a to do list for 24 hours period. There was only so much I could do in a day. That didn't help either.
I was then recommended the book The One Thing by Gary W Keller & Jay Papasan at a book club and that changed my perspective completely. The entire premise of the book is quite simple. In the entire day, there is probably just one thing that is way more important than everything else - just focus on that and get it done. If you do that, your day would be a success. Personally, that was a big eureka moment for me.
Today, instead of making a long list of tasks, I simply look at my agenda and identify what's the one thing that I do today will have the highest impact.
Keep in mind and I stress on the word "impact" not difficult or complex.
And if I did this one thing, rest of the tasks is just work. This simply daily technique has made my way productive and most importantly less stressed.
I do have other things that I need to do but I no longer write it down as a to do list. Instead, I use a Priority Matrix.
I continue to maintain a list of tasks or things that I need to do, but instad of writing it in a flat list, I triage it and put it in one of these boxes. My goal is to ensure that the most urgent and high impact tasks are done FIRST.