I also had a hard time with the endless to do lists I created. It was way too overwhelming for me, and most of the time the tasks I had come up with ended up being shoveled to the next day.
When I started to use a Bullet Journal, I thought of something I have been doing in my regular journals for months last year. I had a small sheet of paper that I tipped into my journal that I used for 3 things:
- A quote
The 3DO (or: 3 to-do items) was a list of things to do that I came up with each morning, things that were shouting the loudest at me. I was very strict with them. If something else came up and said, "I have to get done too!" I just said, "New chance tomorrow, matey!" (Oh! The drama! Can you tell I am writing a novel? 😀)
All my 3DO lists had one thing in common: they contained a list of tasks that I could do on the day. If I had a low energy, high pain day I would add tasks that I could do within my physical means, like inbox zero. If I was feeling really well, I would add things that required some heavy lifting, like clearing the kitchen cabinets.
And ever since I've started to keep my bullet journal I did not take long to notice that having only three tasks on a day gives me a tremendous amount of peace.
I don't keep a separate to do list with tasks I think of on the day either, as I would be back in overwhelm. If they are important enough to be done soon, I trust they will shout at me in my morning bullet journal session.
And yes, during the day something pressing can come up that really needs to be done right away, like you suddenly realize you need to do your taxes (kidding! or am I?).
That is always the only exception to the rule.
But otherwise, all I do is my 3DO!