Be More Productive – Ditch The To Do List

I used to love writing lists because I thought that they would make me be more productive. I loved sitting down with a cup of coffee in the morning and writing out a list of what I needed to do that day. I was one of those people that would add the most basic tasks, such as ‘make the lunches’, because I knew I was about to do that and it felt good to be able to tick it off the list! (you do that too, don’t you?!) I would have a list for everything, things I needed to do, holiday packing, books I wanted to read and many more. These lists would be kept in various notebooks dotted around my house, because I have a really bad habit of putting one notebook down and then picking up another one. I also had lists on my phone.

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The problem was, these lists didn’t make me be more productive, in fact they had the opposite effect, they made me less productive.

I would start each day writing out my To-Do List (and someday’s I really had to struggle to think of items to put on this list) and then I might have made a sub-list, for example on my To-Do list I might have put ‘clean kids’ bedrooms’ and then I would have a sub-list with things like ‘sort through wardrobe’, ‘fold clothes’ and ‘move shoes’. Before I knew it I would have easily spent half an hour or making these lists, then I would make another coffee before I got going and by the time I’d drunk it it would be mid-morning and I would have achieved nothing.

And this was the same in my working life. I would write a list of things that I needed to do, then add the sub-lists, and then I would have to go to a meeting or give a presentation and suddenly it’s lunchtime and I’ve not been productive at all. Whereas I thought I was being focused and organised, I was actually just wasting time.


A notebook with a pen next to it. The caption reads, 'the most simple way to increase productivity'


So I ditched the lists, with the exception of my grocery list otherwise I buy all sorts of junk food, and instead I focus on one thing at a time. For example it might be that I want to get the ironing done, so I focus on that until it is done and then I move on to the next thing. With my work my task might be to draft one post and edit any pictures to go with it. Once I have done that I can move on to concentrating on the SEO for that post. By focusing on just one thing at a time and sticking with it until it is finished I actually get more done and therefore I’m far more productive than I was when I was writing lists.

The notion of multi-tasking making you look like you are being more productive is a false one, in fact those that multi-task get less done because they don’t give anything their full attention.

If you feel like you’re struggling to keep on top of the tasks you have to do, whether at home or work could you ditch the list and be more productive by focusing on getting one thing done at a time? Actually getting tasks done, instead of just listing them out and only ticking off one or two items, will make you feel good about yourself and what you have achieved, which in turn will increase your positivity and happiness.

Have a go and see if it makes a difference to your day and what you manage to achieve!


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