I’m not a to-do lists person. Not anymore, anyway. You’ll see what I mean if you read about my recent To-Do Lists Revolution. Still, I have deliberately left quite a room for developing the topic, so there it is – yet another blog entry on to-do lists.
Thoughts described below are just an opinion of mine, and the aim of this entry is to help you make up your own view of to-do lists and decide whether they really are the best tool available for managing your daily tasks.
To-do lists are supposed to be a fairly simple and self-explanatory concept. You make and follow these lists to do stuff. Usually we refer to our daily to-do lists, but it’s not uncommon to have weekly or even monthly to-do lists as well.
To-Do lists are great for getting more things done that you’d normally do without such lists, but at the same time they’re not so great for lots of other aspects of your activities. In other words, simply having to-do lists is just not enough to stay on top of things. And in this entry, I’m going you show you why, and I will give you examples of how to-do lists don’t encourage and sometimes even slow down your progress.
Reaching your goals
If there’s one thing completely left out in traditional to-do lists, that’s the goals we’re trying to achieve. To-do lists are simply not about goals. You’re supposed to have your goals defined somewhere else, and keep them outside of the to-do lists routine.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get buried in your to-do lists. Quite often we get so thrilled with the idea of getting all the planned actions into our to-do list, that we forget to stop and ask ourselves, why exactly we’re going to do this thing or that one. This means that we’re still going to have many things done according to our list, but we’re not necessarily going to achieve the original goals which have triggered us working and creating to-do lists in first place.
So it’s important to stay conscious and be focused on the goals, not the tasks in your to-do list. If all you’ve got is your daily to-do list – you’re playing a dangerous game. You really need to take some time and analyze the current state of things in order to come up with your new goals or maybe simply correct the existing ones.
The good thing though is that you can always have a “Review goals” item on your to-do list for the day, and this will attract your attention and make you work more on your goals at the end of the day. And naturally, once you have worked out the habit of reviewing your goals daily or weekly, you can get this item off your lists.
Again, because to-do lists are not meant to be a sophisticated progress tracking tool, you need something else to help you do this.
Daily to-do lists could be giving you a false impression of having everything completed each day, while in reality you may be nowhere near the completion of a bigger task or a project. You have to track your projects and goals with a separate process. Daily to-do lists are just too small a scale to reflect the overall state of your projects.
For many people, to-do lists are a constant source of frustration. Whenever they start their day by looking at the list, they find the list to be too long. There are so many tasks and so little time to make them all happen, that it can easily depress people even before they get started. On odd days, it requires some real courage to dive into your to-do list and find a way to get most of the things done in a matter of just few hours. Some people always find this courage, but then some of us never do, so it could be a real problem even though making to-do lists and following them is somewhat the right way to go.
Routine may be another reason for your lack of motivation. When every workday starts with a long list of things to do, and you know that no matter how hard you work, you’re going to get a similarly long list for the following morning, at some stage you lose your interest. You don’t see any challenge in doing better that you already are, because each brand new day will invariably bring a brand new list full of not so exciting things you’re going to just have to work through.
So again, you need something else to keep you motivated. Reviewing your goals daily is a good start because it will help you realise how far you’ve progressed with each of your goals, and see the difference a paricular day has made.
That’s it for now, I don’t want to make this entry too long, so I guess I’ll write more on this topic later. I hope you found this useful, so please let me know if you did.