You keep a todo list… yet you regularly forget tasks.
You write down lots of todos… yet you don’t get to them.
What’s going on here?
Do you ever wonder, “Um, hello? Is this thing on? Is this thing working?”
What is wrong with my todo list?
Why is My Todo List Not Working?
Lists are great tools for getting things done. They allow us take our mind off of tracking our tasks, and concentrate on the work at hand. However, sometimes our todo lists become work in themselves.
Some people wonder why their todo lists have taken on a life of their own and they are not making progress on the things they need to get done. Tasks linger on their lists for days on end. Deadlines are missed. And so on.
So, why isn’t this working?
After all, keeping a todo list is easy… or is it?
The Simplest Solution
I am a big believer that the simplest solution is usually the most effective. A recent article by a well-known time management author said that you had to fight complexity with complexity. I couldn’t disagree more. (PS – See Apple’s products if you have any lingering doubts.)
So, here are 10 things you can look at to improve your todo list’s effectiveness…
10 Things That Are Wrong With Your Todo List:
1. Too Many Lists – Have many todo lists do you have? Some people have one for work, one for home, one for that project, and so on. What happens? Things are forgotten on different lists. And entire lists are sometimes forgotten. Keep one todo list.
2. Too Complex – Does your list look like a Gantt Chart for the next moon mission? Todo lists need to be action oriented, if you cannot quickly discern your next task, you need to simplify your setup.
3. Too Many Todos – Is your todo list simply too long? Be restrictive in what you decide to take on. Everyone has an upper limit on what they can get done. If your list is several hundred tasks, you might need to trim it back a bit.
4. Too Many Contexts – Do you really need to sort your list by context? This again goes back to too much added complexity.
5. Not Visible – Visibility leads to action. If you cannot “see” your todo list, you will be less likely to act on it. This is an area where paper-based lists tend to outshine electronic ones. If your list is right in front on you, versus on an electronic device that you have to turn on, you are more likely to act on it.
6. Too Many Options – This is usually related to electronic todo lists. Does your todo list have options like: priority, location, due date, start date, starred, context, assigned to, etc. Does it take you longer to record your todo options than it would to do the item?
7. Not Actionable – Some people are good at adding things to their list, but not so good making sure that those things are tasks. For your todo list to be doable, make sure it is task oriented. For example, “Garage Mess” is not a doable task. Instead, try “Stop at Home Depot and buy garbage bags for cleanup.”
8. You Don’t Capture Todos – On the opposite side from those who put too many things on their list, are those who fail to capture todos. For your list to serve you, you have to get your tasks on the list. When you think of something to be done, no matter how fleeting of a thought, get it on your list.
9. It Is Difficult to Get Items on Your List – How long does it take you to add something to your todo list? If it takes more than a few seconds, then you will unlikely to capture those passing thoughts and tasks. This is another area where paper lists sometimes excel over electronic ones.
10. You Don’t Use your List – This one seems obvious. However, many people are good at writing things down, but not so good at acting on them. Do you find lists in drawers or on your desk that you made, but never did anything about? Make sure if you are making a list, that you have the discipline to carry it out.
Make Your List Work for You
Todo lists can be very powerful tools. They can drive our productivity and accountability. However, be cautious not to let your list get out of hand or become work in itself. The simplest todo list is usually the best.
When your todo list becomes effortless, you are on the right track.
When your list reminds you of a task you didn’t even remember writing down… then you know it is working.
Is your todo list working for you? What are your best todo list tips?