The Trouble With To Do Lists

To Do List
To Do List

By Joshua Zerkel, Custom Living Solutions


We all have ideas floating around our brains and tasks that we need to get to.
For many of us, the way we keep track of them is by collecting these bits into lists – sometimes many, many lists. In recent years, there have been new productivity approaches that suggest creating lists for the various contexts of your life – work (with subdivisions), personal (with subdivisions), and so on. While this can be great for keeping your tasks organized, this approach may have some downsides:

Multiple lists can be confusing. When you have more than a couple lists to keep track of, it can be hard to remember what item was on which list. You may also spend time splitting hairs trying to decide which list is the very best fit for a particular item or task. Too many lists is similar to having too many files in your filing system – when you have lots of small divisions, sometimes it’s hard to decide where to place an item that really could live in either place. If you find yourself hemming and hawing over deciding which of two similar lists your task belongs to, try streamlining or combining any closely-related lists.

More lists often equal more stress. It’s hard to wrap your head around the entirety of what you have going on and the tasks you have to juggle when you have more than a few lists that your tasks are spread across. I’ve worked with people with nearly a dozen lists, including the ever-present “someday” list, who, after going through and trying to prioritize their tasks, feel completely stressed out. It’s no wonder – there are too many things to do, spread among too many different places. If having multiple lists stresses you out or leaves you feeling overwhelmed, try whittling your lists down to just a few, and see if that feels more manageable for you.

List management becomes a task unto itself. This is the biggest danger I see with the multiple-list approach to to-do management, as you may end up spending a fair amount of time managing your lists and your tasks rather than actually completing them. Unless you are a project manager, you should focus on making headway on your tasks rather than shuffling and reshuffling your lists. In my experience, there’s a sort of organizing nirvana that happens when people feel their lists are “just right” – after spending a fair chunk of time organizing and reorganizing the lists, of course. And while feeling like you’re on top of the organization of your tasks is great, I think it’s even better if you actually make headway on or even complete a task or tasks instead of just organizing them. Don’t be fooled – while having the “perfect list” can be satisfying, you’ll be even more satisfied by making progress on your tasks. Organizing a list is NOT the same as actually getting something done!

Now, don’t get me wrong – lists, when used well, can be useful tools for collecting and organizing your thoughts, your priorities, and your tasks. Just be careful that your lists are working well for you, and that you’re not spending lots of your time managing them.

Instead, your lists should be supportive tools that you spend just enough time on to help you move closer to completing the right tasks.

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Are You Making this #1 Email Mistake?

Get Your Email Under Control

By Diane SneadType A Professional Organizers



Emails just don’t seem to stop.  Some days, it can seem like ALL we do is answer emails!  It’s easy to become overwhelmed because many times we just don’t know what to do with the emails, so they sit and fester in the inbox.

The biggest mistake people make with emails is they don’t convert their action emails into tasks.  Stop treating your inbox like your to-do list!  First, it’s much easier to create a task – with appropriate deadlines and reminders – so that you can be sure you’ll get the action done.  Second, it’s very difficult to even KEEP your inbox as a to-do list.  If you have 3000 emails in your inbox, are you saying you have 3000 to-dos?  This is overwhelming so what do we do – we ignore them all!

Want to know what to do with EVERY email in your inbox?  Simply apply the 4D’s:

The 4D’s are:

  1. Do it:  If replying to an email will take less than 2 minutes, then do it now!
  2. Delete it:  If you’re 99% sure you don’t need it, delete it!
  3. Delegate it:  Who is the one really responsible?
  4. Designate it:  Create the task, or add to your calendar – designate the time to complete it!

Email doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence.  If you treat it like the tool it is, email can actually HELP you be more productive!