To Do List – the most powerful productivity tool.
We live in an age where we have a variety of gadgets that can help organise our lives. The days of the Filofax are seemingly gone, as our laptops and phones give us access to apps and sites capable of storing, processing, and organising every little detail you can think of. Birthdays, events, work loads – you likely already have several apps at your fingertips to help you sort out all of these things and more.
But what was wrong with old fashioned “To-do lists”? Before laptops and phones became the norm for most in the western world, our days, particular our work lives, were run by lists written on paper. This method hasn’t disappeared, it has merely gone out of fashion, replaced by the more robust systems of today. But should you consider going back to the old “To-do list” method? Here are some points to consider.
There is no denying that modern technology has revolutionised the working world. Before, anything not committed to paper or memory was likely to be forgotten. Now, events and information can be stored on the internet forever, and get relayed back to us automatically when it is most appropriate. But it can all be a little overwhelming for anybody that isn’t 100% engaged.
To-do lists, on the other hand, are as simple or as complex as you want them to be. In their most rudimentary form, they are a plain list of everything that needs to be done during a day, a week or a month. If you write it yourself, you can tailor it to your own tastes and methods. Colour co-ordination, deadlines etc. can be implied however you like. The advantage is that it is 100% your own. You don’t need to work within an apps’ rigid structure – you can make the list thats right for you.
Speaking of flexibility, the simple pen and paper approach lends itself to constant change. Apps are great for data storage, but they can become overbearing quickly if not managed properly, as users tend to put EVERYTHING into one app, only to get buried under the avalanche of reminders. There isn’t much room for a customisable list to channel all of this information into.
With pen and paper, you can change it minute by minute if needs be, in order to make it the most useful tool it can be. Be it changing the format (daily, weekly, monthly), the level of detail, or the amount of work load, it can be done in seconds. Say you realise that trying to do 6 things a day doesn’t work. Within minutes you can rearrange to a 4 things a day system.
And while we are preaching the to-do list in it’s longest standing form, there are plenty of apps that try to recreate the pen and paper approach. Even something like the note app on iPhone can be turned into a to-do list hub. No complicated menus, no elaborate organising, just a plain text list that you can add to or delete as you go.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to see the benefits of this system of organisation. Attaining a sense of completion is one of the common joys all humans share, and the to-do list approach lends itself to this gratification. As you complete each task, you can tick it off or rub it out. It seems meaningless, but reducing the list visually can give you a boost, spurring you on to do more tasks and wipe more items out.
Big tasks can be broken down into manageable chunks, helping you to see what was once a mammoth task as something much easier to complete. No more will you be scratching around for something to do – the to-do list will be there to remind you what needs to be done, hanging over you, but without the noises, alarms and reminders some apps come with.
And the strongest reason to reconsider utilising this system is simply how long it has been effective for. The new technology has improved things, but that doesn’t mean that to-do lists are obsolete. They survived for as long as they did because they are effective. So if you want to combat procrastination, put an end to miss deadlines, and generally streamline your life, consider pulling the old notebook a pencil out again!