With the advent of various calendar apps, one might be tempted to imagine that the era of the age-old and very humble ‘To-Do’ List is over. However, a quick survey of highly productive people and the deluge of various ‘to-do lists’ apps still floating around will pay put to such thoughts. The form might change i.e. one might go from pen and paper to the computer, tablet or a mobile phone, but the To-Do lists still rule the market in the productivity game.
And if you are one of those who has given up and are wondering what the brouhaha is all about, read on to find out why they matter.
Writing down a list of things you need to or want to do forces you to process information in your brain. You can filter out the frivolous or things that you use to simply procrastinate. Having a list in writing helps you with prioritizing the jobs by their importance, time required etc. This in turn helps you to plan and manage your time effectively. Studies show that most people are hampered by poor time management and prioritizing. A to-do list helps you to organize your work, optimize your time for every task and thus works wonders for your productivity.
When writing down the things you need to do, your mind will also automatically review possible problems to getting something done or potential pitfalls and consequences. This will prime your brain from before and can save you time when actually working on the task. An added benefit is writing something down and accessing it frequently reinforces it in your brain. While the list helps take off the pressure of having to remember everything, having it reinforced every time you see the list helps you remember the things you need to do better.
A to-do list also acts as a motivator. Once you start ticking off the things you have already finished, you will get more enthusiastic about tackling the remaining list.
There exists a very famous IVY LEE Method to using To-Do lists to maximise productivity and minimise distractions. This is how it’s done:
- At the end of every work day list down 6 (only 6) most important things you want to get done the next day.
Organize them according to their priority i.e. no 1 should be the most important while no 6 will be the least important.
- The following day, start with your no. 1 task. Focus on it without distractions till you get it finished. Then move on to no. 2
- Go through your list and the day in this manner. If anything remains undone at the end of the day, move it to the next day’s 6 tasks.
- Repeat this every day.
Doing the most important thing first each day is a productivity trick that has withstood the test of time. But To Do lists have a very important long term significance too.
Having to write things down forces you to concretize abstract ideas or goals into actual work and tasks. We all have some major milestones we want to achieve, but it is only when we start writing down the actual steps we will need to take to achieve that goal that we can move on to making it a reality. Identifying and writing down these steps for a day to day level helps to turn what might be an overwhelming thought into a series of small achievable targets which will take you closer to your goal.
So whatever the medium you choose, start listing your way to success!