Are to-do lists worth it?
I truly believe everyone should have a to-do list of some sort, without it you will most certainly end up forgetting to do a task, most of the time until it’s too late. To-do lists guide you towards your daily goals and motivates productivity. Without them, I would for one be absolutely and utterly overwhelmed.
If you do make them, great! You are most certainly not alone if you feel like your ‘to-do’ list is more of a ‘maybe I will do this today’ list. With a to-do list, people always report feeling less scattered and more organised. However, when your to-do lists contain heaps of items that there is no way you are going to complete them, people tend to procrastinate and just not do them at all. This is also what happens when your lists become a copy of the day before, with more and more items added on top of the last– this definitely becomes too much.
Your daily to-do list cannot have twenty seven different tasks on it, otherwise you will become overwhelmed and not know where to start, and will probably just give up!
Have a top 5 things to do and put them in the order of importance, so you spend your first burst of motivation on these things. The rest of the daily things to-do can still have on your daily to-do list, however you do not need to go out of your way to complete these (just remember if you do them today, you wont have to do them tomorrow, and future you will thank you for it).
Make sure the tasks are both achievable and specific – not just ‘email’ – say ‘email Jamie Ling at 3pm about broken sewage pipe’.
Don’t plan to do more than you know you physically can in a day – this is a sure way to fail by becoming overloaded and just giving up. Also, you know those tasks that have been on your to-do list for the best part of 9 months? Well they aren’t going to get done themselves! These ones have obviously been on that list because either they are mammoth tasks or simply boring. Try breaking up these tasks into a bunch of tiny ones – then at least you are getting somewhere with them!
Now the fun part! Decide what fits into your schedule and personality first – electronic or written. Electronic-wise, there are countless apps already on your phone, tablet, computer, etc that you could utilise, plus billions more floating around in App Space. Just don’t be like my father, and set alarms for the whole day and then snooze them so every 4 minutes or so another snoozed alarm will go off, because he ‘knows how to use the reminder app but just doesn’t want to’ – learn how to use an app or write them down!
Written down to-do lists work best for me. I find it easier when I can scribble and change and highlight, and the satisfaction of crossing one off manually is so much better than ticking a virtual box on an app! I use a diary, but there are plenty of other means – my friend uses about seven lists of scribbles, so maybe if you are like her you should condense these to one list if you can. There is in fact evidence that written lists help you to remember them better, and that it is easier to visualize the tasks that need completing, however what works for one might not necessarily work for the other.
OK so you’ve got your list, with 5 important tasks and some other ones to do today if you have time. Now, the next big step is to try adding times next to each one. You can either set time limits for each task, say half an hour or 1 hour to write that boring brief, or you can write down the time you wish to do and complete it in, for example ‘3-5: Write brief for tomorrows meeting’. Just ensure that you overestimate, yes you read that correct. Give yourself padding, as there is nothing worse than thinking ‘Oh I can do that in one hour’ and then in fact needing three hours, causing you to go way over time for your next two important tasks and then not knowing how to fit them back in today!
Write your list before bed, or at lunch or while you eat your breakfast – it only takes 10 minutes! It doesn’t matter what time of the day you make your list, as long as you make one (almost) everyday, and it isn’t too overwhelming. The truth is that even with a list that isn’t perfect, you are more organised than Pete, who misses deadlines, is overloaded and stressed.