When you find running through a list, skipping one thing over another, chances are that you are looking for something that is both important and easy to do. However, this attempt often leaves many holes in the list, and may result in running off to do other things before actually completing it.

One solution is to attempt an Exercise of Ordered Completion. Unsurprisingly,

The Exercise of Ordered Completion is a practice of either completing or addressing each task sequentially on a list.

While it is not always practical, or even possible, to do so, strictly moving from the top to the bottom of a list can be helpful when you find yourself with a decaying list. The exercise is also an effective force in shaping a working system.

The Process

One at a time, from top to bottom, either complete or address each task. By moving straight through a list, all tasks become important. Ease is no longer considerations. We deal with each task once, improving the list’s flow. We can consider for each task:

  • Can I do this now?
  • If not, why not? What is stopping me from doing this? (Consider an alternate next action.)
  • If the order is poor, what needs to change in the system to address the order? (Consider changing the order of projects in the library.)
  • Is it better placed elsewhere? (Be cautious of continually sending a task to other lists.)
  • Is there something that needs to happen before this task? (Consider creating a sequential task group.)
  • If there is some anxiety in a task, what is the anxiety? What can be done to address it? The answer may offer a better next action.
  • Is a next action actually scheduling a time for the task itself?
  • Is the next action clear, specific, and written beginning with an action verb?
  • Would the next action benefit from being broken down?
  • Would the work better be done regularly until cleared? In other words, would setting it to repeat help?


Let’s say I hit a task at the office I cannot do now. I realize that it is not in the right tag list. It would fit better at home. I can now tag it with @Home where it better belongs. The shorter @Office list is now more completable, which carries some charge of motivation.

As another example, I run into a call task that is giving me some anxiety. I pause and realize that I am not fully prepared for the call. A research task would be useful first. I then set the call task to sequentially follow the research task. I assign the research task an @Current tag. As I feel that I will return to the call task in time, it will be better off of my mind. My current list is again improved for current conditions. I no longer have to question the call or compromise the list.

As another example, if my Today perspective is not completable as is, I consider what about it needs adjusting, be it that the tasks are not clear enough, or perhaps that I have taken on too much and need to delay or drop some things.

Optimally, a completable list tends to be short, easily envisioned as doable, with tasks that are themselves easily envisioned as doable.