Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.
Do you know what public enemy number one is when it comes to productivity? Your to-do list! Yes, you read right. Your to-do list is reducing your productivity!!!
In this blog I want to show you why to-do lists don’t actually work, and how they can have a negative impact on your productivity, organisation and cause anxiety. We will then look at how abandoning your to-do list and taking time to diarise the tasks you need to do will transform your time management and improve your mindset.
Before we begin, let me explain. I am not against a list, in fact I love a list, I am the list queen. I am an avid fan of checklists too and thoroughly enjoyed reading Atul Gawande’s ground breaking book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. However, I don’t make the error of working from to-do lists.
There are six fundamental problems with to-do lists that make them ineffective.
A to-do list is just an excuse to procrastinate. How often do you scan your list just so that you can pick off the ones you can finish in two minutes? Or you go for the easiest items first (but these are not usually the ones that are the most important). When your to-do list contains some tasks that are three minutes long and some that will take 60 minutes, you will focus on the shorter / easier ones to enjoy the satisfaction, that feeling that comes from crossing an item off your list.
To-do lists do not provide sufficient information about tasks to enable you to determine what you should prioritise and work on first. After all, all tasks look the same on paper. The list does not tell you how long each task will take, when can you do it and how important it is. It also does not answer the important questions such as how much time do you need and when are you available to do it
In research published in the book, The Busy Person’s Guide to the Done List by Bailey Adams, Adams reports that 41% of all the items on a person’s to-do list are never completed. Social psychologist Roy Baumeister and journalist John Tierney, authors of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, report in their book that one person typically has at least 150 different tasks on their to-do list, and that an executive’s to-do list for a single Monday could take more than a week to finish.
Those nagging (and often distracting) thoughts about uncompleted tasks and unmet goals hanging around in your mind are known as the Zeiganik effect. Worrying about how long our to-do list is and realising how little time we have causes a persistent worry in our head that distracts us from tackling the very tasks that we are worrying about. In their study, Conflict among personal strivings, Psychologists Robert Emmons and Laura King discovered that the anxiety that results from having too many conflicting goals causes our productivity as well as our physical and mental health to suffer.
To-do lists often have a negative impact on long-term goals. How many items on your to-do list are linked to your actual long-term big vision goals? It is likely that your to-do list focuses on the short term and not the more serious projects that require significant time and planning! As Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save Time, Money, Space, and Sanity explains in her book, long-term projects usually end up on the bottom of the list, as we put things off in favour of the easier, quicker tasks (remember my point number 0ne!)until the deadline gets so close they become last-minute emergencies.
I have always believed that if you can accomplish the task in a couple of minutes now, then just do it, don’t write it down. This is what I call the “two minute rule”. How much time is wasted writing a task down on a to-do list when it would be quicker and more efficient just to get on and do it! As Bailey Adams writes in his book, The Busy Person’s Guide to the Done List, 10% of items on a person’s to-do list are completed within a minute.
So how are you going to record and manage everything you need to do now you have ditched your to-do list? Simple! You are going to diarise tasks in your diary. Instead of wasting valuable time adding the outstanding task to an endless and unmanageable to-do list, put a specific date and time when you are going to complete the task. You need to put it in your calendar like you would any other appointment you wouldn’t want to miss!
Take a moment to allocate a specific time in your diary to complete the task. Decide how important the task is, estimate how long it will take, when can you do it and write it in your diary. When are you making those sales calls? When are you choosing the paint colours for the guest bedroom? Exactly when will you be writing that proposal? When are you taking the rubbish to the local tip? Simple. Look in your dairy for a suitable time and allocate it to the outstanding task.
Most people will not have sufficient time to do all the things that they previously had on their to-do list. That’s okay. There is no point having an endless to-do list of tasks that you are never going to have sufficient time to complete. Now you have ditched your to-do list and your diary will accurately reflect the time commitments you have. Diarising your tasks and actions will force you to be honest with yourself and you will need to ditch some of the unimportant tasks. You will also have to say ‘no’ to people when they ask you to do things that you know you have no space in your diary for.
I suggest you review your diary at least three times a day to support this new “no to-do list” you and to keep you on track:
First thing in the morning
You should review you diary first thing in the morning as part of your Miracle Morning. [Not sure what a miracle morning is? Check out my Importance of a Miracle Morning Routine blog.] This will enable you to review what your day ahead looks like and also to check what tasks you are expecting to complete. It will also give yourself the opportunity to make sure you have everything you need or make adjustments.
A quick mid-day review will allow you to check that your day is on track and review your plans.
End of the day
At the end of the day, so you are ready and organised for tomorrow. Your last action should review what tasks still outstanding from the day and reschedule them. Finally, you should diarise any new ones and plan your schedule for tomorrow.
So do yourself a favour: Ditch your to-do lists and start living from your diary today.
Are you still struggling to get up and get going in the morning? Read my article The Importance of a Miracle Morning Routine to find out why creating a miracle morning is so important and how it empowers you to start the day on the right foot so you can control of your day, become more productive and live a life-by-design.
Remember, it is always good positive habits that are going to get you success and move you towards your goal not willpower or education or anything like that. It simply is just good daily habits. So, there you have it! Four easy ways to start creating good habits!
They're back! This is the perfect mini coaching call for busy people! In your complimentary "Productivity Check Up" I will help you find a solution or a tweak to improve how you use your time!
If you ever feel like you’re lost in your to-do list, you sometimes procrastinate, or there are never enough hours in a day, then this is a MUST for you!
In this short blast of coaching, you'll get some easy-to-implement solutions to improve your time management and productivity instantly!
Book your complimentary check up spot now, as spaces are limited and filling up quickly!
Have You Ever Thought About 1-2-1 Coaching?
What is 2021 going to bring you? Excited but wanting that extra push and support? Or perhaps you’ve no idea what you want, let alone how you are going to get there!
Coaching helps you get from where you are now, to where you want to be – it’ll give you the skills, tools and knowledge to unlock your potential, reframe your thinking and overcome obstacles to help you reach your goals. In particular, I specialise in goal setting, time management and mindset, empowering you to create a life by design. So if you’re ready to start living a life you love, then let’s chat.
I have just THREE spots available for new clients opening up in February 2021!!!
So, whether you are interested to learn more about how I can help you or you are curious about what coaching is, let’s have a virtual coffee and a friendly chat to see if 1-2-1 coaching is for you!
What My 1-2-1 Clients Are Saying
I initially signed up with Alice to help me with my time management and productivity in my business and everyday life. Alice is a fantastic coach. She is very supportive and kind. I love her honest and straightforward approach. Since working with Alice, I have discovered so many new ways of doing things. She has helped me uncover the root of some of my habitual tendencies and transform them. The amount of care and support she offers is priceless. I highly recommend working with her.
Oonagh English - Life Coach and Nutritional Therapist
Let's Work Together
If you are serious about wanting to make life-long changes and positively transform your life, then I would love to hear from you to see how I can support you.
I have helped a range of people on a huge variety of goals – from suffering with confidence loss, to publishing a book, to enabling a change of direction in life, to small business owners struggling with staff – but my main focus is to support the busy professional who is trying to juggle it all.
Success Box is your revolutionary monthly membership book club combining the learning and community you expect from a book club with the empowerment and growth you gain in a group coaching environment. All through the effortlessness of a monthly subscription box. You can find out more about Success Box by clicking HERE.
📚 Take inspired action from reading personal development books (not just reading them for the sake of it)
📚 Accountability with others to prevent procrastination
📚 Be introduced to new personal development books that you may not have chosen
📚 Be confident in their worth as all books are vetted
📚 Empowering and support with a like-minded, driven, inspiring community
Are you ready for a life-changing monthly meeting, support and community that will inspire you, challenge you and grow you, all through reading and sharing ideas?
Have you ever wondered what does it take to successfully work from home? My latest book is a hands-on guide for everyone working at home. It will show you in easy to read tips how to work from home, whilst staying productive, healthy and sane.
In informative, easy to read chapters, you will learn how to set up your own dedicated workspace, select the right office equipment and tips for video calling and conferencing. You will also learn the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries inside the home, managing distractions, avoiding procrastination and learn how to establish a routine that suits your lifestyle.
With many people working from home for the first time, this book is a practical guide to show you how to work from home, whilst staying productive, healthy and sane.
This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.
For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.
Copyright 2021 Alice Dartnell Limited
This blog is published solely for educational and entertainment purposes. The author and publisher are not offering it as legal, accounting, health care or other professional services advice. While best efforts have been used in preparing this blog, the author and publisher make no representations or warranties of any kind and assume no liabilities of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be held liable or responsible to any person or entity with respect to any loss or incidental or consequential damages caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the information contained herein. Every person and company are different, and the advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. Alice Dartnell or Alice Dartnell Limited is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised in this blog. You should seek the services of a competent professional as appropriate. You are responsible for your own choices, actions, and results. Always consult your own General Practitioner if you're in any way concerned about your health.