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Automate a daily to-do list with Apple Notes and Shortcuts

When it comes managing daily tasks, I’ve tried everything: sticky notes, bullet journaling, and every productivity app under the sun. I keep coming back to a very simple and boring solution: an automated daily note.

As an iOS user, I realized I can use the Shortcuts app to automate the creation of a daily to-do note in the Apple Notes app, send myself a reminder notification to fill it out, and then keep them all in sync across devices with iCloud.

On my phone I have notifications turned off for nearly every app, but this is one that I welcome. I like being prompted to think about what I have to do well before I have to get started.

Research shows that writing your to-do list the evening beforehand can help improve sleep quality, reduce procrastination, and reduce guilt about enjoying a relaxing evening. It gives me the opportunity to clear this information from my brain’s working memory so that I can either wind down from the day or focus on other things.

How to set it up

  1. Open the Shortcuts app on your iPhone and create a new Personal Automation
  2. Add a Date action and set Specified Date to Tomorrow
  3. Add a Variable action and set Date to a variable named Title
  4. Add a Notes action and set "Create note with Title in To Do folder
  5. Add a Notification action and set "Show notification" to whatever message you want to see.
  6. Set the time and interval for when you would like this automation to fire. I chose 8PM, daily.
apple shortcuts app daily to do automation

And, voilà! Each evening at 8PM I receive a reminder notification to fill out my to-do list for the following day. No more scrambling every morning to come up with a plan and stressing out over all of my tasks.

apple notes app macos