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4 Reasons to Dump Your To-Do List & Replace It with Something Better

to-do listLots of people use to-do lists to manage their time.  There are at least 3 benefits I can think of to using one:

  1. It keeps you on track.
  2. It prevents tasks from slipping through the cracks.
  3. It frees your mind from having to try to remember things.

A to-do list is what I call a Level 1 time management system.  It’s better than nothing, but it has a number of deficiencies.

1) It doesn’t differentiate higher priority tasks from lower priority tasks. As a result it’s easy to get caught up it the trap of doing less important tasks just to get the warm fuzzy feeling of crossing things off the list.  It’s also easy to slip into the habit of doing the tasks we enjoy and never getting to the ones we don’t.

2) It doesn’t tell you what needs to be done today.

3) It’s hard to see & evaluate progress. If your list includes dozens of tasks you’d like to accomplish this week, this month, or this year, your list could be as long as your arm.  If that’s the case, even on a good day you barely make a dent in your list (especially if tasks are constantly being added to it), which can be very frustrating, particularly if you’re an achiever.

4) It’s not holistic. If your to-do list includes everything you want to do as a spouse, a parent, a homeowner, a volunteer, an employee/business owner, and so on, chances are you’ll naturally gravitate towards tasks for some roles and neglect tasks for other roles.  A to-do list doesn’t help you live a balanced life.

There are a number of systems that overcome these deficiencies and can help us better manage our time and tasks.  I’ll talk more about them in future posts in this series.

Do you use a to-do list?  If so, how does it help you?  Where does it fall short?

6 Responses to “4 Reasons to Dump Your To-Do List & Replace It with Something Better”

  1. I like the Getting Things Done methodology, which encompasses todo lists, but allows room for 1) categorization, 2) “rainy day” todo items, and 3) both scheduled and nonscheduled tasks.

    I’m beta testing a new site called Nirvana, which is based on the GTD method.

    However…I’m always looking out for alternatives.

  2. I developed my own planner and combine it with my blackberry and outlook.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention 4 Reasons to Dump Your To-Do List & Replace It with Something Better | Live Intentionally -- Topsy.com - August 16, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul Steinbrueck, Janette McLean. Janette McLean said: RT @paulsteinbrueck New post… 4 Reasons to Dump Your To-Do List http://bit.ly/9ClgHK >Sounds interesting. […]

  2. Simple Step Beats To-Do List for Managing Time and Tasks | Live Intentionally - August 18, 2010

    […] If you do, that’s because of the deficiencies of the to-do list system we discussed in Monday’s post, 4 Reasons to Dump Your To-Do List & Replace It with Something Better. […]

  3. Level 3 Task/Time Management: Scheduling | Live Intentionally - August 25, 2010

    […] A to-do list is helpful because it keeps you on track, prevents tasks from slipping through the cracks and frees your mind from having to remember tasks.  But it’s less than ideal and can lead to frustration, anxiety, and misplaced priorities. See 4 Reasons to Dump Your To-Do List & Replace It with Something Better […]

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