Why Use a To-Do List?
We all have those days when there are a million things to do, and we don't know how we're going to get it all done. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the vast quantity of tasks that we must do from day to day. Sometimes we have so many balls in the air, that we may even lose track of some loose ends and forget to do important things. When we get too busy, we end up feeling like we are barely able to keep our heads above water.
One of the most important reasons for keeping a to-do list is the organization. Organizing your tasks with a list can make everything much more manageable and make you feel grounded. Seeing a clear outline of your completed and uncompleted tasks will help you feel organized and stay mentally focused.
As you cross items off your to-do list, you'll feel a sense of progress and accomplishment that can be missed when rushing from one activity to the next. The affirmation that you are making progress will help motivate you to keep moving forward rather than feeling overwhelmed.
Having a list of all your tasks will allow you to sit down and make a plan. One study showed that fifteen minutes spent planning could save an hour of execution time!
Feeling forgetful? Nobody is capable of remembering everything at all times. To-do lists are a useful external memory aid that give you permission to forget. As long as you can remember to look at your to-do list, you will never lose anything that you have recorded on it.
Without some sort of external memory aid, we are guaranteed to forget things due to the nature of our short-term memories. The average person's short-term memory can only hold 7 pieces of information for about 30 seconds. If you have more than 7 tasks that you need to remember, you are already setup for failure. Keeping a to-do list will allow you to effortlessly keep track of everything that you need to do.
Every time you look at a list, it reinforces the information in your short-term memory, making it much less likely that you will forget an appointment or commitment. Students are often encouraged to use lists as study aids to increase retention of facts.
If you record all your tasks in a to-do list, you can easily review the list and prioritize the most important tasks. Why waste time on trivial activities when there are important matters that need your attention? One study, conducted by the Harvard Business Review, showed that 90% of managers wasted valuable time through poor time management. Your to-do list will help you focus your attention on the most important task of the moment.
Our attention is easily diverted by many types of distractions. How often have you been doing one thing while thinking about what you need to be doing next, or worrying about what you might have forgotten? When you know that you can quickly refer to an organized to-do list, you'll find that you can focus your attention on the activity that you are involved in - you'll enjoy life more and be more productive. Being mentally distracted means being inefficient, but having a to-do list means you can rest easy knowing that you won't forget a thing.
Motivational speakers will tell you that to-do lists are a useful motivational tool when used as a way to clarify goals. It's easy to say, "I want to get that promotion," but listing the steps that you intend to take to accomplish that goal can help clarify your thoughts and give you achievable short-term goals. As you succeed at each step along the way, you'll gain confidence crossing those items off your list!
So, start making your to-do lists today. You'll soon be less stressed, more organized and find yourself with more time in the day than you ever realized you had!