Over the past few weeks, I have been working with a wonderful range of clients - different ages, varied professions, from all over the US and abroad.
What do they have in common?
They are smart, successful, and highly motivated. And they don't use a to-do list.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE WITHOUT A LIST?
Some people are gifted with an incredible memory. When I was younger, all I needed to succeed in school was to memorize facts and spit them back on a test. My mind was uncluttered and it was easy to retain many bits of information. Can you relate?
Perhaps this continued for you through high school and even college. When you entered the working world, you had your systems that helped you succeed in the past and you stuck with them.
I have always been a list maker: to-do list, packing list, supermarket list, books I want to read, movies I have watched, places I want to visit. When I was younger, I remembered most things without having to consult my lists, but they served as a reassuring back-up.
As I've gotten older and life has become more complex, it has become nearly impossible to remember everything without having some things fall through the cracks. I rely on my to-do list to a greater and greater extent.
What changes in your life have made it harder to keep everything in memory?
Is it hard to fall asleep because your mind is racing through all of the items on your 'mental' list?
With the advancements in technology over the pasts twenty years, we have started living life at an accelerated pace. More and more data is thrown at us each day. Technology has changed but our brains haven't (at least not at the same pace).
WHY LISTS HELP
When you capture everything on a list, it frees your working memory for more important things like problem-solving and critical thinking. Put everything on your list. Being able to rely on your list takes the burden off your brain. It reduces the panic and anxiety when you think you have forgotten something important. We all have so much going on, do you really want to take the risk of not writing everything down?
CREATING THE MOST USEFUL LIST
Now that you are convinced a list is a good thing, here are three suggestions to enhance your list so you can be super-productive:
- Prioritize - identifying low, medium and high priorities makes it clear what you should be working on first.
- Estimate - recording how long you think a task will take, helps you plan your time. At first, you will be inaccurate, but over time, you will develop great estimating skills.
- Cross it off - research suggests that crossing something off your list releases endorphins. Acknowledgment of a completed task makes you feel like you have accomplished something and empowers and motivates you to keep going.
PAPER OR ELECTRONIC?
As I have written before, keeping your to-do list on paper versus electronic is a personal choice. If you are comfortable with an electronic list, my preference is ToDoist. It has an easy user interface, syncs across devices, and has a robust free version. If you choose to upgrade, at $30/year, it is very affordable.
If you are dedicated to paper, that's fine. I encourage you to use your phone to snap an image of your list at the end of each day as a back-up. It would be devastating to lose a list that has everything!
What do you think?
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