Make ToDo Lists Work for You

My father was my first superhero, even before Superman.  Besides being big and strong, he was always calm and things seemed to go well around him. He got more done than anybody else I ever met.  And we never had to go back and unplug the iron or retrieve someone’s toothbrush.

I think my Dad’s super-power was his using To Do lists.  Pretty much whenever he had a bunch of time and stuff he needed to get done, he’d have a To Do list made up.  And when there was a bunch of things that had to be done to accomplish some goal, he’d make up a To Do list for it.

There are numerous benefits to using To Do lists:

  • You are less likely to forget something.
  • You are less likely to run out of time (or at least, not be surprised when you start to run out of time.)
  • Making a To Do list gives you the opportunity to think about what you are going to do ahead of time.  So you think about what you will be doing, how to do it, what tools, materials or other prerequisites are needed.  You can estimate how long each item should take and how much time you have so you shouldn’t be surprised if you start to run out of time and it’s less likely that you won’t be able to finish your list, assuming that your estimates are close.
  • If you have a list to work from, you are not spending as much time and energy figuring out stuff.  As a result, you can focus more on doing and less on thinking about it.
  • When you move the list out of your memory, you free up more of your brain and memory to use on other stuff.  So you’ll able to use your brain for other things, which makes you practically smarter.
  • Having better control of what you are doing reduces your stress, making you more effective because you are calmer.  Besides, no one has fun when they are stressed out.
  • Having more confidence in what you are doing makes you more effective and encourages others to trust you, making it easier to convince them to do what you want.
  • Having a physical list makes it easier to share what you are doing.  Others can better understand a written list and it’s easier for them to “see” what you are doing.

To Do lists are easy to make and easy to use.  Even if you aren’t so good at them in the beginning, they are still helpful and you’ll get better with practice.  They don’t have to be complicated or pretty.  They just need to provide reminders of what you intend to do so that whatever you need to remember, the list can provide it for you (or trigger your memory to remember it.)

You want to make your first lists more descriptive than you think you need so that you don’t have to stretch your memory when it’s not used to working in this way.  As time goes on, abbreviating the list and item descriptions will work fine because your brain and memory have learned how to use To Do lists to remember stuff so the reminders to trigger memories can be briefer.  But in the beginning, strive to make lists that you can depend on.  That will create a history of success which will encourage you to use To Do lists more and trust that they will guide you truly.

 

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