Why You Should Never Finish Your Todo List

Why You Should Never Finish Your Todo List

Do you spend your entire workday chasing your todo list?

It can be a constant battle between adding tasks and crossing them off as you complete them.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, you shouldn’t worry about finishing your list.

While Inbox Zero may be an ideal to strive for your email, you shouldn’t ever get your todo list to empty.

The Never Ending Todo List

You should never actually finish your todo list.

This idea stresses some people out. Especially those that want to get everything done. (Hint: You can’t do it all… no one can.)

However, I should point out that this concept is not about endless work. It is not about overload.

It’s about the fact that you should always be looking ahead to your next actions. Your todo list is an ever evolving tool to keep your life in order.

After all, there is always something else to do.

“If your todo list is finished, you’ve given up or are dead.”

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Having things on your todo list should be viewed as a positive rather than a negative. It is a sign that your list is doing it’s job. And so are you.

As well, your list should be a productivity tool that is constantly collecting the items you need to do, while you are busy doing other things.

Here are a few reasons “Why You Should Never Finish Your Todo List:”

  • You Should Always Be Adding – You should always be capturing todos to your list. It doesn’t matter if they are big or small, important or trivial. Get them on your list, so that your list can remind you. If you decide later that you don’t need to do them, it’s easy to cross them off.
  • Focus on the Task at Hand – Keeping things on your list, helps prevent multi-tasking. Instead of trying to do too many things at once, let your list “hold” your next tasks so that you can concentrate on your current task.
  • Your List Lets You Relax – Getting tasks out of your head and onto your list lets you relax. If you don’t need to complete the task at that moment, writing it down lets you concentrate on something else without worrying about forgetting that task for later.

There is Always Something to Do

You should never finish your todo list, and that should be a good thing.

Always be adding to your list.

It might be work-related. It could be something important or required. Maybe it is just something fun.

There is always something else to do.

And if there isn’t… well, what then?

Question: Do you finish your list, or is there always something on it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

13 thoughts on “Why You Should Never Finish Your Todo List

  1. ‘Your list lets you relax’. This is an amazing point Craig! This is a principle that I have been trying to implement as much as possible and it’s working out really well. Once its on my list with the right amount of detail, I can forget about it until the right time. So simple, but so effective!

  2. Like Peter, I also love the idea that “your list lets you relax”.

    The way that it works for me is by creating 3 different lists:

    – One that I add all to-dos. Everything that comes to my mind goes here.
    – One that I can keep track of people who owe me an answer (Called “waiting list”)
    – And finally, the list where the most important tasks for the day go. I, of course, use the “all to-dos” list to help me decide what goes here.

    It would be awesome to know how you handle yours too.

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom, Craig!

  3. What’s your favorite To-Do app for both iPhone and Android? I’m using Wunderlist and have tried a few others. I’d like something with more features that I could cross a task off the list but maybe be reminded later if I want to bring it back on the list. Maybe I just need to learn the app I’m using more than just adding a task.

  4. There is actually some solid research by Bluma Zeigarnick from the 1920’s that backs this up. She showed that incomplete tasks prey on the mind , naging us and disrupting our thinking. Then, Florida academic Roy Baumeister took it another step and showed that this disruption goes away when we manage tasks using tools like a to-do list. In other words, we relax, just as you said.

    This research is cool to explore in addition your article because it can be extended to all the ways in which we manage time demands so that the result is always the same… peace of mind.

    We aren’t taught this stuff… but it’s critical to know isn’t it?

  5. I have a To Do list that is customized to me and me alone (I actually started posting it on my “Church of Procrastination” page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Church-of-Procrastination-634226996723094/ ). It’s always getting fine tuned. I chuckle when I look at my old To Do lists but just when I think I have it just right I get inspired by someone else’s process and there I go evolving my own list again.

    I will have to admit that I’m super guilty of trying to get my list down to zero but of course it’s damn near impossible like the article mentions. I do not want to believe that I can’t get all my tasks done and be task/project free but deep down inside I know that’s not the case.

    I’m a constant procrastinator who has been actively trying for many many years ( 10 plus years) to get myself in order. I started this whole self development and time management thing out of desperation and do not regret hopping onboard the “getting shit done” train. My To Do list has been a big part of my life (mind maps as well). This whole thing of not finishing my To Do list a new concept for me which I have to let settle in but the idea does give me some mental relieve. Definitely have to meditate on this one.

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