Do you use a to-do list or a calendar to plan your days or weeks? What if I said you should use a hybrid model?

I always used to plan my days with to-do lists. Even when I read Nir Eyal’s account to ban to-do lists, I stuck to my approach. We even published an article about the best to-do list apps.

Yet, at some point, he got through to me. Two weeks ago I started time-boxing or time-blocking. It means that every project or task gets allotted a fixed space in your calendar. It actually makes sense. You can’t always control output, but you can control input.

If you work two hours as planned but you haven’t finished, it’s fine. You controlled the input. You just need to schedule more time another day. With a to-do list, you don’t get this positive feedback. You can’t check the task off because it was not completed. This leads me to …

Three benefits of using a hybrid approach:

  1. I get a dopamine hit by ticking off completed time boxes
  2. It’s easier to manage than a calendar
  3. I find it easier to use (internal) links.

So how does this hybrid approach work?

Here’s a before and after photo

I plan everything in Evernote*, where I use daily planners. Find out more about Evernote in this article about note-taking.

The only change I made to my previous to-do list system, was adding time slots to each task.

It meant that I completed a lot more than I usually do. I felt more satisfied and more productive, which is the point of it all.

*This is an affiliate link. If you sign up for Evernote – even the free version – through this link, I’ll earn points to get Evernote Premium. This will help to produce even better content for Top Three Guide.

Here’s a bit more about the benefits:

1. Dopamine hit

Ticking things off is satisfying. It’s a small reward for having completed something. While in a calendar, the time slot just moves to the past, in this hybrid approach, you get to put a checkmark. This simple action is a guaranteed dopamine hit. Even though it’s probably super small, it’ll make you feel just that tiny bit better.

2. Easy changes

If for some unexpected reason I can’t complete something during the planned time box, it’s easy to move it around. I can just copy the line and paste it elsewhere. Try that in a calendar.

Changing the time frame is also a lot easier. It requires not even half the clicks or time.

3. Linking

Because all my plans and notes are in Evernote, it’s easy to link internally. As you can see on the photo, I made a link to a note about Twitter in Evernote. I can go straight from my planning to a task.

Of course, you can do this in a calendar as well, but it’ll take longer to organise and it’ll take at least one extra click to get to your destination.

The same works for external links, I just paste the link to the website in the planner, and that’s it.


This hybrid approach has been working very well for me. I recommend you give it a try. If anything is unclear about it or if you want to suggest any changes, feel free to reach out.

If you’re interested in learning more about using a calendar method, check out Nir Eyal’s method here: