Photo by Ivan Samkov on

Most people miss the point of to-do lists. They fret and worry about ticking everything off and complain about a lack of time if they don’t get it all done. Or they make several lists or change them or lose them. We judge our efficiency on how many things we can tick or cross out.

The whole point of a list isn’t to “do as much as possible” – it’s to take away the mental taxation from having to remember everything. The list isn’t there for you to do everything on it. Although it’s certainly a plus and nice to do so. The list is a prompt that takes away the stress and mental drag that comes from trying to keep everything in your head. If it’s down on the paper or on your computer – it’s there for you to see. You know that even if you do it later it’s still visible. You can forget about it and don’t need to worry about it because it’s there written or typed. You’ll see that it’s still outstanding. Not having a list means you’re always thinking of what you need to do in your head or things to make sure you don’t forget. This takes up time and mental focus that could instead be spent on thinking of steps to take to start working your way through your list. It’s hard enough to do what we need to do without also trying to be the gatekeeper and auditor by not having it visible in front of us. It’s also worth noting that the process of just writing or typing what you need to do or would like to do feels like progress in itself – you’ve taken the first and most vital step.

Don’t feel forced to juggle things or to be “on fire” everyday completing every single thing. Real efficiency comes from knowing what needs to be done right now and differentiating that with things that can wait. It’s hard to make this comparison when you can’t think about them in detail if everything is simply under “to do” in your head. Make your list.

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