For as long as I can remember other people have told me why I should have a “To Do” List. And, I may listen to all the reasons why, but not necessarily agree with any of them.
But, to be honest, the main reason I don’t use “To Do” Lists is because I actually feel unproductive when I use them.
I know I’m more likely to pick tasks I can complete quickly, which leaves those longer, more challenging jobs for another day. And inevitably it is actually those more challenging jobs that will move me forward rather than fill my time.
To Do Lists leave me feeling disconnected from time and achievement. And it’s not just me. iDoneThis research indicates 41% of all items on a to do list are left uncompleted, without achievement.
But, my biggest revelation from my research is that “to do” lists actually contribute to stress. And this is because an uncompleted task will stay on your mind until it is finished.
So, with an average of 41% “to do” list items lying around uncompleted, our minds are constantly keeping track of them. Which explains why we are more likely to have intrusive and uncontrolled thoughts which will overwhelm us – particularly at 3.00 am!
Now don’t just take my word for for what’s happening in our mind. What I’m suggesting has a name – The Zeigarnik effect was first unearthed by a Lithuanian born psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik who described the effect in her doctoral thesis in the late 1920’s. And she first observed how waiters could keep complex table orders in their mind until the food was delivered. After that point, (when the task was completed) the information vanished from their mind.
Now, you may be wondering what a Lithuanian psychologist has got to do with our business productivity. The answer is a lot!
The key to the end result of our “to do” list is completed actions which are taking us step by step to our business goal. We now know that our mind worries and keeps open loops about uncompleted tasks. When there are open loops your brain will not allow you to focus on the new task because it knows you have left the previous task uncompleted.
So, to close those loops the key is to work for short, focused periods of time. Working in this way means that we avoid the deadly multi-tasking, open loops and disruptions.
The result is we achieve significantly more and also experience the elusive peace of mind.
So, to join the ranks of ultra-productive people work from a daily planned calendar which focusing on you achieving what’s necessary for you to reach your goals.