Going Beyond Daily To-do Lists


I admit I’m at the top of the “list” of to-do list fans. There are post-it notes all over my desk, computer, and agenda. They layer one another and feed my nervous energy all day. Each time I cross off an item I feel like I have soared over a hurtle toward a finish line. I’ve even been known to write an item on the list just so I could cross it off. Crazy.


If you are addicted to lists or post-it notes to plan your workday, you may feel some changes are needed. A sense of failure can easily set in when you fall short of completing your list. At the close of the day, I find that I’m more often discouraged with the lack of lines I’ve slashed through rather than relieved at the accomplishments.

One of the problems with my lists begins with the lack of accuracy in estimating how long tasks take. Some items take longer to write down than to complete while others take so long an entire work day wouldn’t suffice. Sometimes I honestly tackle less time consuming items just to satisfy my desire to check something off, delaying the priority work. I have learned that the need to check off to-do lines is a way to satisfy that need to feel productive.


How can we improve upon this cycle that ends with us heading home with items unchecked, tacking them on tomorrow’s list, and feeling like we’ve failed?

There are strategies that may crack this habit of list worship.

Arranging our work schedules to include assignments and events that are necessary should be mixed with the time you plan to spend doing things you enjoy. Scheduling dinner with your spouse or a trip to the park on your agenda balances life visually and gives you a sense of purpose beyond “the list”.

Arranging tasks for your day in order of priority and assigning the slot of time you estimate realistically is vital to improving productivity. Hit the jobs that require your full and undivided attention at the best time of your workday. A span of time can be scattered through your day to account for shorter tasks like emails and phone calls. Avoiding constant interruptions to your momentum by turning off unnecessary notifications are extremely helpful to holding your attention and spinning through your momentum with optimal clarity.


One of the most helpful changes I’ve experienced by building a schedule rather than living by incessant lists is my mindset. Planning my day with enjoyable activities and intentional blocks of time devoted to high energy allows me to leave the office with a positive outlook and satisfaction with my accomplishments of the day. I leave work looking forward to meeting that friend at the bookstore or making that taco dinner for my family followed by a great book.

Only writing down and tracking what we HAVE to do leads us to look at each agenda entry or list item in a negative way. There’s no need to throw away the post-it notes, but focusing on ALL of your time can help you take control of your work and free time rather than letting it slip away.

I encourage you to sharpen the elements of life you track to guard the most valuable commodity you have: TIME


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