To do, or not to do, a to-do list

I had a very long to-do list, not enough time in the day to do it all, and no idea where to start. So I decided to delete it. One-click of a button and it disappeared, I was free.

Strangely what followed seems counterintuitive, but I actually got more things done.

It seems to me that to-do lists are really useful when:

  • you’re working in teams and you need everyone to know what’s happening and what needs to happen
  • if you are following a process and a checklist of activities is helpful to see
  • If you get more pleasure in planning than doing

It seems to me that to-do lists are not useful when:

  • you are collecting ideas of things you want to do
  • the tasks are all different sizes, some might take 10 mins and some 6 weeks
  • you are measuring your self-worth from what you’ve ticked off each day

Does your to-do list actually stop you from doing anything?

Having a huge to-do list made me feel more overwhelmed. Seeing all the things I still hadn’t done was not motivating.

When I deleted my to-do list, I kept a ‘don’t forget’ list with a few small admin things to remember. It might sound like the same list but it wasn’t about collecting the things I have to do, it was about reminding myself of the things I couldn’t forget — like not forgetting to send dad a birthday card, or calling the dentist.

I discovered that all the things I wanted to do I would end up doing because I actually wanted to do them. I didn’t need to have a list.

We’re not all the same, and I’m sure this won’t work for everyone; but for me, life without a to-do list over the last year has felt a lot more freeing.

If it’s causing more stress, I dare you to delete your to-do list.

This post is part of a series of atomic essays on Twitter for #Ship30for30




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