Your to-do list’s sexy, secret lover: The ‘Waiting For’ list

by | Jul 9, 2013 | Time

Takeaway: When you maintain a list of everything you’re waiting for, you can make sure nothing slips through the cracks, and you can worry a lot less about the things and people you need to stay on top of.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 39s.


You likely already have a to-do list because if you didn’t, you would have a thousand commitments bouncing around in your head everyday. But it’s just as mentally taxing to keep track of everything you’re waiting for.

The ‘Waiting For’ list

The ‘Waiting For’ list is one of my favorite parts of the GTD time management system. The list is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a list of everything you’re waiting on at a given time.

If you’re waiting on an important email (or even an unimportant email), you add it to your Waiting For list. Likewise when you’re waiting on a letter, phone call, text message, response to a voicemail, or even a package from eBay.

Then, and this part is crucial, you review your list a few times a week so nothing slips through the cracks.

The list is that simple, but it’s amazingly effective at reducing your stress and making you more productive. It also makes you look like a superstar. (Well, even more of one in your case.)

Group items by contexts, and keep track of the date


Here are two tips to level up and make your Waiting For list even more powerful:

  1. Group the items by context. I have my list divided into categories like: email, Internet things, texts, phone calls, and paper mail. Grouping items by what they are (or by location, like “home”, “office”, and “cottage”) significantly reduces the time it takes you to process, organize and prioritize stuff in the list.
  2. Keep track of how long you’ve been waiting for something. I always jot down the date I started waiting for something. That way I know whether someone is late to get back to me when I look at the list, and I can use that information to politely remind that person to get their stuff together.

Why the list is so powerful

I see the Waiting For list as the to-do list’s sexy, secret lover. Sexy, because it works so well; secret, because no one knows about it or uses it; and lover, because the two lists work so well together. The Waiting For list lets you stay on top of your work, and it will make you infinitely more productive.

  • The Waiting For list helps you focus. After you routinize adding items to the list after you send an email or leave someone a voicemail, the list essentially stays on top of things for you. You can be confident that you will stay on top of everything when it’s on the list (and you review the list frequently), and you can focus better on whatever you need to be working on in the moment.
  • Nothing will slip through the cracks. When you track all of the stuff you’re waiting for, and review that list regularly, it’s pretty much impossible to not keep tabs on stuff.
  • People find it pretty damn impressive when you stay on top of stuff so well. Every boss at the desk jobs I have had have been impressed with how much I remembered and got done. This list is largely the reason I was able to keep tabs on everything, while reducing my stress at the same time.
  • The list doesn’t take much time to update. I keep my Waiting For list as a text file on my computer (though I’ve kept physical copies too), and it takes about five seconds to add an item to the list. That’s a tiny price to pay for the mental load and stress you’ll save!

List image source.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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