Why most to-do lists don’t work!

“I always write ‘Wake Up’ on my To-Do-List so I can at least accomplish one thing a day.”   - Unknown

Why not just use the venerable “to-do” list to stay organized and productive? The answer – most don’t work.

The problem with the typical to-do list is that it is “unlimited”, meaning that it is never completed. By definition, a to-do list is a collection of everything you need to do. There may be days, weeks or even months of work or customer related tasks on this list.

How many to-do lists are unstructured, outdated, incomplete or impossibly long?  Paper to-do lists seem to disappear. Even worse, if you have one, you have to re-write and cross off to-dos to keep it current. Some people give up and keep everything they need to do in their head and trust their memory. All of these practices will kill your ability to work at peak performance.

The problem with an “unlimited” to-do list is that it actually saps energy to do the work, rather than instill motivation. Having an unlimited amount of work on your to-do list, and feeling like you are falling behind, means you are losing the time management battle. How am I going to get all of this done? How do I dig myself out from under the burden of work? How do I find time for other responsibilities, like marketing or family activities?

Of more concern is that unlimited to-do lists can sometimes promote procrastination on the tasks we least likely want to do, as they seem to stay at or near the bottom of our list. Isn’t it true that less important matters sometimes jump ahead of the tasks that we really don’t feel motivated to work on?

On the other end of the spectrum, if you do not have a current and complete to-do list or you keep everything you need to do in your mind then you are creating a layer of stress, without even knowing it. In his seminal work, Getting Things Done, time management guru David Allen calls these psychological “open loops”, which means that they are things that are outstanding and pulling for your attention. Your precious mental energy is burned up when you constantly need to think, worry and remember what you need to get done. The casualties are concentration and even, restful sleep. When you write down what’s on your mind, and stop worrying about forgetting things, you immediately free up critical mental resources, energy and focus for the tasks that lie ahead.

As you can see, if you are not using an advanced, trusted system for keeping track of everything you need to do then you cannot possibly work at peak performance. This is why many hours of productivity may slip away from your day, often, without you even realizing it.

To download a free e-book that explains the entire Must Do Today time management system and how to create an effective TO-DO list (with optional iPhone/iPad app) ,click the added link:



Jeff Morris

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