Do To-Do Lists Work?

Do To-Do Lists Work?

Friday morning I asked my Facebook friends for blog post ideas. This question came from Erin O’Bryan, a long-time Facebook and Twitter friend who lives not-too-far from me, but I have never met in person. (Erin, when are we going to fix that?) Anyway, since today is Erin’s birthday, I thought I’d use her question as inspiration for this post. 

I am a fan of lists of every kind, and to-do lists especially.

My team uses Basecamp to create fairly sophisticated to-do lists for managing projects, and I venture to say I would not be able to run my business without Basecamp (or a similar tool.)

On Basecamp, I can easily sort and create my own to-do lists: the tasks (shamefully) overdue, the tasks due today, tasks due later this week, etc. I can also look at all the tasks assigned to me. Team members can find their to-dos easily, as well. We can view to-dos by project to for an overview of each project.

That said, whether or not to-do lists work is a fairly individual question. To-do lists work for some people and may not work for other people. I may prefer using Basecamp and you might like a spreadsheet.  Or you might prefer a list handwritten on an index card or scrap paper.

Here are a few tips to increase the likelihood that to-do lists will work for you:

Record the list. Whether you write your list on paper or type it into an app, record it! A list that is written down is far more effective than the list that’s nagging in your thoughts.

Look at your list. Basecamp is only useful if I look at my list of to-dos. Your handwritten list is only effective if you keep it handy and refer to it.

Use your list to help you focus. Once you have written a list, look at your list and choose one task at a time for your focus. I do best when I have a list, and when I prioritize the list in advance. Lists work even better when I choose a task and set a timer for each task.

Have a reasonable list. If your to-do list is too unwieldy, you may feel overwhelmed and defeated before you begin. At times, I feel that way when I look at my Basecamp to-do lists. Instead, create a list that you can actually accomplish in a day. Three or four big to-dos are probably enough.

Tell me something! Do to-do lists work for you? How do you prefer to keep your list? What other suggestions can you add about how to make to-do lists more effective?




About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

  • Thank you my friend. One of these days coffee is in our future. To Do lists always hold such potential for me, like a big old empty yellow pad but I never seem to stick to them!

  • I keep my to-do list in a spiral notebook with decorative pages. It’s also where I keep notes to myself about what I want to blog about,since in essence my blog is an item on my list. Actually, I call my to-do list a progress report to imply that I actually might make progress. LOL

  • I so agree with all of your reasons, but especially the one about using a list to help you focus. Many days, I’ll feel overwhelmed at the number of things I need to do. Once I commit the list to paper, however, I find the list isn’t nearly as long as I’d mentally thought.

  • I just found a new list tool I like… If you look at it you’ll see why.

  • I use To-Do lists only when I’m behind and in task-mode. Too many lists or lists that I try to maintain for too long end up falling between the cracks. I’ve even tried Getting Things Done but only use parts of that system, too. Mike…

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