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To-Do Lists: Reasons to Love Them

To-Do Lists: Reasons to Love Them

I love my to-do lists (yes, that is plural…lists!)!

People seem to fall into one of two to-do “camps”.  Either you love them (like me) or you hate them and feel to-do lists are useless. 

Here are the two biggest reasons I LOVE my to-do lists…  If I think of something I want to do, look up or order, I capture that on a to-do list immediately.  Why?  There are two reasons:

  1. I KNOW before very long, I will forget all about this thing I think is so important right at that moment or
  2. I will clog up my brain trying so hard to remember it. 

You may be able to relate to forgetting all about something if it’s not on a list. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into this idea of clogging up your brain attempting to remember something.  Perhaps this has even happened to you… You think of a cool idea, something you want to accomplish, a great place you want to go on vacation, etc. You don’t have your phone (who can imagine!) or a piece of paper handy.  To help you remember, you keep repeating it to yourself over and over, so you will be sure to remember it later. 

Unfortunately, for me, this is an ineffective way for me to remember something because even though I am TRYING sooooo hard to remember it, life is moving at a very fast pace and it’s really challenging to remember everything.  Another reason this is difficult is often these great thoughts happen just as I’m heading out the door to a meeting or even as I fall asleep. 

Another interesting thing to consider is the stress and strain I put on my brain trying to remember that one thing can cause my brain to get tired (its true, brains do get tired!).  This may cause me to miss opportunities to use my brain in different ways, such as coming up with a creative solution to a problem, recognizing a potential business contact, etc.     

When I add something to a to-do list, I also set a reminder date and time. Knowing I have this item documented allows my brain to focus on remembering and working on the important things I need to address right now.

So how can you to create and maintain a to-do list? This is where my multiple to-do lists come in. 

First, I have a giant to-do list, which I store in the Apple Tasks application.  When I add an item to this list, I ALWAYS put a date and time to remind me about it.  Including a reminder date and time is a key point. Why?  If you have an enormous to-do list and it truly is a list of things, how will you know what needs to be done when?

My second to-do list is used for the most important tasks for a particular day or perhaps a particular week.  I go through my giant Apple Tasks list and I hand-write the top 4 to 5 things I need to do on a tiny yellow sticky note.  I use the small size sticky notes so I don’t get carried away and write down a ton of things on list. 

Once you have decided how you want to store the things on your to-do list, how do you determine what items you tackle first? Here are couple of ideas…

  • If you use my method of adding a something to your to-do list with a reminder date and time, you’ve already put a parameter around what you’d like to accomplish when. One issue that can crop up is you may have
    added an item two weeks ago and now your priorities may have shifted. As you go through a particular day’s to-do items, it can be helpful to do a “sanity check”. This can be done simply by asking yourself, “Does this item need to be done today?”
  • Another great way to figure out what item(s) you need to do right now is to ask yourself, “What is the top priority for today (or for this week)?” Then as you review your to-do list items, you only pick items associated with moving your top priority forward.
  • Finally, here’s a fun process you can use focused on having your intuition point you to the next thing to focus on. This process was created by my mentor and teacher, Danielle MacKinnon (DanielleMacKinnon.com). Here are the steps:
    1. “Take out your to-do list and have it handy.
    2. Imagine that you are a beautiful, sparkly white/gold/silver ball of energy.
    3. Look at the first item on your to-do list and imaging moving your ball of You toward that “thing.” For example, if that item is raking leaves, imagine moving your ball toward raking the leave.
    4. Watch what happens to the ball. Does it grow more sparkly? Does it get less sparkly? Does it totally lose its sparkle?
    5. The brighter the ball gets, the more this item taps into your passion. The dimmer the ball gets, the closer to a “should” it becomes (and then it’s time to consider whether or not this job really belongs on your to-do list).” (Danielle MacKinnon, Todo list getting you down?, February 7, 2019)


Now for one of the favorite parts of having a to-do list — crossing off the items as you complete them AND crinkling up the paper as you successfully complete all the items on a small post it note!  For many people this is one of the BEST feelings and it demonstrates concrete evidence you are moving things forward!

Helen Kosinski

Since 2005, trusted confidant and sage Helen Kosinski has partnered with small business owners and corporate leaders who are too busy to think straight. Together they unlock creative steps to strip away what isn’t working and replace it with an inventive work life, allowing her clients to freely enjoy what’s most meaningful to them.

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