I got the inspiration for this topic from Leo Babauta’s post the other day entitled “Kill your Todo list.” Leo’s theme was about getting rid of your todo list and instead concentrating on just “one thing” that you wanted to get done that day. Leo and I agree on many things when it comes to time management. However, I wanted to present an alternate view on the todo list issue. Why? Because you need one.
The Blank Todo List
Perhaps, there are a few people who do not need a list, but I believe that most people are flying blind when it comes to their time management. They go through their daily activities without a good overview of their obligations and simply jump from task-to-task without much thought or priority.
I used to work with a manager that started each day by resetting his todo list. He would do this by tearing off the top sheet of paper from his yellow legal pad. Sometimes he did it right in front of me. I used to ask him, “What about the things that were on there that you didn’t finish?” He would shrug. He was not very effective.
Some argue that todo lists can take too much effort and are a burden in themselves. I can agree with this point, but would counter that if your time management is taking too long, then you aren’t doing it right.
“Time management is supposed to make time, not take time.”
It is definitely possible to waste time making endless lists, defining “next actions,” and continuously prioritizing. Instead, your todo list should be simple, keep you organized, and save you time.
5 Reasons You Need a Todo list
Here are some top reasons why you should keep a todo list:
- Allows You to Focus – Perhaps, one of the most basic premises of having a todo list is to let it track your obligations so that you can concentrate on doing. It you are constantly trying to remember all the things that you have to do, you will not be able to dedicate your focus to the task at hand. Your todo lists lets you forget about all the “other stuff” until you need to remember it. When your todo list reminds you of something you had forgotten… that means it’s working.
- Visibility Leads to Productivity – Visibility to your tasks drives productivity. This is why I encourage people to always have their todo list visible and in front of them. You will be amazed how much more you get done simply because you are aware of it. Those minutes previously wasted in between events or meetings can now be effectively used to take care of important items.
- Keeps You on Track – How do you keep from getting sidetracked on urgent but unimportant tasks that come up during your day? By sticking to your todo list. You list can help you stay on the path when other things are trying to divert you. It can help prevent you from getting to the end of your day and discovering that you did a lot, but nothing that you needed to get done. Your list can be even more important during periods of low energy or motivation. At the end of your day, when your energy is wiped and you are only thinking about going home, your list can guide you back. You may quickly see some easy things to take care of before your day is done.
- Manages your Priorities -When you have a list of all the things you need to accomplish, it allows you to prioritize what is important. If you are only seeing the task in front of you, it is difficult to know if it is more or less important than something else. Your todo list lets you see the entire landscape. It gives you the ability to put the important things first.
- Saves Time and Prevents Stress – A todo list, when used effectively, will prevent oversights and forgotten tasks that create more stress and effort. Ever had a forgotten task that cost you more time or money? A late bill or overdue report? Let your todo list prevent Life Friction, and keep undone tasks from creating more work.
Use Your List
So, let’s keep that todo list. It is one of the most powerful tools for “getting stuff done.”
Ensure that your list is simple and effective. Your list should not take time, but rather save you time.
Let’s kill the tasks and keep the todo list.
What are your experiences and best practices with your todo list?