Back to Productivity Basics: The List

Blank Notebook: Productivity Basics

Why do you need a to-do list?

This isn’t a question of how you carve through that list, how you get the tasks on the list done, or how you organize the list. Why do you have one in the first place?

When you’re in the trenches, so to speak, it can be easy to blame your to-do list for your problems. It’s an easy thing to complain about: it’s too long, the tasks are impossible, it’s an ideal that never applies to how your day actually plays out. And yet your to-do list is still important.

The Reason for the List

Even if you never get everything on your list done in the same day, your list serves and important purpose. When you have a to-do list filled with bite-size tasks you can do in one sitting, you never have to wonder what it is you should be doing. If you carefully record everything you need to do, you don’t need to waste brain cells and synapses remembering.

Freeing up space in your mind helps you do better work. Instead of constantly worrying about what you’ll do next or what’s due tomorrow, you can rest assured that when you’re done with the task at hand, you can check your to-do list and tackle the next item. A to-do list is a way to remember without using any of your memory.

Keeping Your List Manageable

The trouble with to-do lists is that sometimes we make them our masters. It’s easy to forget that a to-do list is a memory tool instead of a mandate. You are in control of your list, and anything you put on it is something you have chosen to remember.

If you know you’ll never do a certain task on your to-do list, take it off your list now. There’s no sense in keeping reminders of things you’re never going to need to remember. If someone asks you to do something and you’re not sure it’s worth remembering, let them know that you’re too busy and don’t add it to your list.

Keeping your list manageable comes down to one simple rule: Only use your list for things worth remembering.

If forgetting it won’t hurt you or those you care for, leave it off your list. You won’t miss it. You’ll have more white space on your list, more freedom in your life, and your everyday routine will feel less like time in the trenches and more like living.

You choose your list; don’t choose to make it something you resent.

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