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6 Reasons Why Your To List Is Useless

Do you have a To Do list?

How useful do you find it?

These are two questions I often ask when I’m training people to be more productive and to use their time well. The answers are usually, “Yes” and “Not very”.

When I look at the To Do lists that people have, I’m not surprised that they’re not very useful. They tend to suffer from the same problems. Here are 6 reasons why your To Do list is probably useless.

  1. It’s far too long. It is literally a list of everything you could possibly do. Every time you think of another task, it goes on the list until that list is so overwhelming your heart sinks when you look at it and it saps all your energy.
  2. It’s not prioritised. That’s why it’s so long. There’s no distinction between tasks which are long-term, medium-term or urgent. It doesn’t help you decide what you should be doing now, then what you should do next – which is the whole point of a To Do list.
  3. The items are too vague and ill-defined. Some examples I’ve seen are – “marketing”, “prepare for presentation”, “product training”. These are potentially huge items which are actually a collection of many smaller tasks. Writing them in this way does not help you see exactly what you need to do. Just breaking them down into their component steps is a task in itself.
  4. You never review and amend it (this is why it’s too long – see Point 1). The list just goes on. Every time you think of a new task, you write it on the list. Some have been there for months. Now and again, you’ll sit down and write a new list, copying items from the old one. It’s like moving house and taking piles of junk you’ve never used from the old attic to put into the new one.
  5. You don’t even look at it anyway. It sits on your desk or on your computer because you were told you should have a To Do list, but you don’t actually use it to guide what you do each day. In fact, you often end up doing things which were never on the list and, occasionally, you’ll then write those things on the list so you can have the satisfaction of crossing them off.
  6. You can’t stick to one thing and get it done. When you do try to do something that’s on the list, you end up getting distracted, bored or interrupted and go off and do something else. You can’t seem to get anything finished.

What’s the answer? To be of any use to you, as To Do list needs to be:

  • Short
  • Specific
  • Prioritised
  • Action – focused

A To Do list should help you decide what you should be doing at any given time. Large tasks need to be broken down into smaller ones and they need to be expressed in terms of actions – start each item with a verb, e.g.

  • “ring the client to discuss payment of the outstanding invoice”
  • “write a brief outline of my presentation”
  • “circulate the agenda for Monday’s meeting and ask for comments”

The items also need to be prioritised – which ones need to be done first? It helps to put a deadline next to them, also a timescale – how long will each one take? That can help you to see when they can be fitted into your planning.

Now pick 3 items which are your priorities and work through these one by one. If you’re interrupted, decide whether it’s more important to deal with the interruption (e.g. a phone call or email) or to get on with what you’re doing.

And delegate as much as possible. Go through your list and see how many things could be done by someone else.

Follow these guidelines and you may find that your To Do list becomes a useful planning tool rather than another waste of your time.

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Site by: Dawud Miracle, Business Coach & WordPress Websites