Sticky Note Wall List To Do
FEATURED,  GettingThingsDone

THE LIST, PART 2 // Is Your To-Do List Actually Hurting Your Ability To Get Things Done?

In this modern age, the to-do list is a daily ritual, almost a chore in of itself, but it’s not something that automatically make you more productive.

If you make lists at all, you’ve probably ended up with one or two lists that have over 10 tasks for the day.  Trying to get started on such a mountainous list is like tackling the Matterhorn: the immensity of whats at hand leaves you paralyzed, maybe feeling a sense of obligation instead of determination.

That feeling of dread probably comes from having too many conflicting events

Larger lists, especially those with conflicting goals, can create constant worry about the task at hand.  Humans are so-called ‘completions’ – we like to get shit done.

READ MORE: 10 Reasons Lists Rule

It’s actually called the Zeigarnik effect: the human mind can, and does, remain fixated on unfinished tasks, leading to mental stress as well as very real physical effects.  Finishing the task frees our minds from this worry.

A cluttered home is the sign of a cluttered mind

Our brains are hardwired to love finishing a list of tasks. So, why do we still make huge list that take weeks to finish off?

How can a list set us free?

start small.

You can feel a huge sense of accomplishment just by making the list at all.  The very act of writing down the tasks to be completed will give you that warm sense of success.  Writing down tasks, even non-specific ones can give your mind some mental gratification.

Super Long To Do List
Make a List. Just don’t make it too long…


It’s all in how you start your day.  Some research suggests that the more we have to control and focus during the early day, the more likely it is that we will have a unfocused and uncontrolled latter half of the day.  Some suggest its part of the reason many people cheat on their diets in the evening.

The suggestion is that we can waste important early morning resolve early on, if we spent too much thought on what to wear, or whats for breakfast.  We can wasting limited self-control resources on unimportant tasks.

The simple answer is to turn your morning into a routine.

I’ll do it later.

Hold on cowboy:  Part 2 of the problem is procrastination. Its pretty clear to anyone who has made or wanted to make a list that the more vague the task to be done, the more likely procrastination is to strike.

Writing your tasks down as vague, one-word items is a surefire way to hold yourself back from actually doing it.

A to-do list has to be thought about in solid, concrete terms.  Writing down a task in a vague, non-concrete way might save time now, but it will hinder your progress later, costing more time.

to sum it up: your willpower runs down as the day marches on, your list is full of vague, unprioritized tasks and if you don’t finish them, you’ll be left with a nagging sense of obligation and worry.

So how can we make a better to do list?


Want to know more about Lists and Getting things done?
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Richard James Lee is a Canadian-born Writer, Chef and Entrepreneur. He is the Editor in Chief of Ions and Chef of Kayak SmokeHouse in Toronto. His Printed Works include Dark City Streets and White.