Everyone is familiar with a to-do list, but most people don’t really understand the importance of having a list of the things you want to accomplish. Creating a to-do list is creating a list of goals. The list tells you what you need to do to achieve some larger outcome in your life. The power isn’t so much in the list itself, but in the overall goal it helps you to achieve.
A list is a way to break down your life goals into easy manageable steps that you can complete in a specific amount of time. In this sense, your list becomes a guide showing you how to succeed in life.
The way most people start off creating to-do lists, isn’t particularly effective. It is easy to end up with many items that aren’t important, that you don’t want to do, and that don’t contribute to your overall goals.
Developing a talent in creating your lists is very beneficial First, you need to see your list as a sacred place. It is there to help you achieve your life goals. It represents items on which you plan to spend part of your valuable and limited time. This doesn’t mean you can’t put smaller items on the list–like getting groceries. It does mean that you need to make sure you only use your list for things that are actually valuable to you.
Thank you for this nice post concerning to do’s. I’d love to share with you my version of to do’s. There was a time in my life that I was making a list every evening before going to bed. On that list was: Pick up suit at dry cleaner, Pick up one quart of soya milk etc. Then, I read two books: The first one: The Third Wave, (Toefler, Alvin, 1980) explained that we are in the midst of a change. The second book, The 7 Habits explained that we must start with the end in mind. In order to reach a certain amount of success we must imprint some direction to our lives; picking up the suit at the cleaner is hardly that. Second wave: To do lists,, looking backward. Third wave: Identity,Directions, values and looking forward. Now, I do one list per week, leaving the dry cleaner out. My list is made of direction rather than tightly framed issues. I feel better with myself and.. I rarely forget to pick up the soya milk!!
To-Do list is just one side of the coin. The other side is the “action”. These should go hand in hand. The To-Do list is ONLY effective if they are acted upon ;-)
Mark Shead says
Very good point. Simply writing everything down isn’t the same as executing.
I find that many people aren’t careful with what they write down. They end up with so many items that they really don’t want/need to do that their list becomes worthless–they don’t even try to execute it.
this is a great article. a simple task we take for granted but has a big impact on reaching our goals. as a working mom it’s hard to keep things balanced. creating a list does help “visualize” the things that needs to be done.
Gustavo Bonato says
Just read and apply GTD (by David Allen) in your life.
The aspect particularly relevant here is the use of lists at different levels, that structures various levels of ‘To Do’ from the highest aspirations right down to ‘what to do next’. These are loosely linked by reviewing them periodically. So achieving a life goal of ‘Achieve World Peace’ might indeed link through a list of current projects suggested by this goal (e.g. ‘engage with Senator on world peace conference’) to a ‘Next Action’ of ‘pick up dry-cleaned coat’ to be ready for that meeting!
There’s lots of other benefits too, in this and other parts of the approach. GTD is very flexible/customisable, as you create your own system to implement the ideas. Do as I did, and just start with what seemed the most important elements of the approach, and let it grow as seems to give greatest value. GTD is straight forward without much jargon, although the ‘Tickler’ system/file flumoxed me for ages – its a system that provides reminders.
But you knew this already, didn’t you?
I like your metaphor that to-do list should be sacred place for things that are valuable and important.
But even though it’s sacred we should not treat what’s on the list as set in stone.
If circumstances change so should our to-do list. It needs to reflect accurately where we are now and where we want to go. Otherwise it will drag us down.
Really enjoying your blog. Thanks
Mark Shead says
Good point Rafal. I’m not against changing the list, I just think people need to be more careful what they put on it. If it is a task that you really never intend to do, be honest and don’t put it on the list.