The best thing about a To-Do List is being able to cross each item off the list as you complete it. Whether it’s at home or at work, I’ve long been a To-Do List maker, but I’ve recently been thinking about how effective they actually are, and whether making these lists of tasks can be more of a hindrance than a help.
Take for example the person who makes lists as a procrastination tool. If that’s you, how often do you keep thinking up every minute little thing that ‘needs’ to be done to make sure you have the best and most comprehensive list possible? And do you then think hmm, I need to prioritise this list, and set about creating To Do List 2.0?
One major flaw with lists like this is that you can’t possibly do everything on the list, especially in one day/week/month. Also you are bound to get extra tasks that need to be slotted into your schedule. Added to that, some tasks may no longer need doing or may change by the time you get around to them. But the biggest flaw of all is that a great huge list of things you need to do can completely over-face you and lead to you doing none of them, and then feeling bad because you’ve not achieved anything you needed to do.
So what’s the answer?
Based on the concept that Momentum Breeds Motivation, I have moved over to making Have Done Lists.
A Have-Done list can be done mentally or on paper. I would suggest doing it on paper if you’ve been struggling for motivation and want to boost your morale. The complete opposite of a To-Do List, a Have-Done List focuses on progress; it doesn’t have all those angry items you’ve not attempted yet. Instead of crossing off what you’ve done, you see unobscured the tasks you’ve completed. And each item you can add makes you feel like you want to add more to the list. One item on the list looks lonely so you want to do something else and the list grows making you feel better, showing you how productive your day has been and proving that you haven’t wasted time.
The other benefit of a Have-Done List is that if you keep a complete list, you can see whether you’ve been prioritising things. If you just delete items off a long list of things to do, you don’t have any sense of importance for each item. When you can read what you’ve achieved, you’re more likely to think OK, so I’ve done some things that need doing but I want to get that report on the list, or cutting the hedge on Monday’s list instead of leaving it ’til the weekend. There is nothing extra to distract you from what really needs to be done.
So next time you’re berating yourself for not embarking on all those tasks, forget the To-Do List, get a fresh piece of paper and put ‘Have Done’ at the top instead.