Whether we keep them on our smart phones, our iPads, or even one of those 20th century pads of paper, many of us love our to-do lists. There’s a satisfaction that comes with looking at a long list of actions for which you are responsible and then crossing them off one by one. As professionals, we want to know that we’ve accomplished something and made progress on our goals at the end of every day. But, did you know that by throwing your lists away, you actually may get a lot more done?
An article set to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research and written by professionals in the field of marketing asserts that when you create tasks for every step of your goals, you are more likely to get overwhelmed and determine that you cannot finish the list of work in front of you.
The authors, Amy Dalton and Steven Spiller, recommend that you save your detailed lists for one major goal at a time. When a goal is large and long-term in nature, you probably do need the fulfillment of those smaller steps to feel as if you are making progress. But, for everything else you must accomplish in your day, don’t bother to write it down and even analyze it into smaller parts (1. Get into car to drive to business lunch, 2. Make sure to greet the new CEO of our major competitor, 3. Hand out at least 20 business cards) It’s too much. Just make productivity, networking, and personal development a natural part of your lifestyle, and I imagine the need for many of these reminders will disappear anyway.
Do you fall victim to the detrimental to-do list? When you look at a page filled with things you need to get done, are you tempted to walk away and take a long lunch in the park instead (which isn’t such a bad idea once in a while . . . but don’t put that on a to-do list, too!)? Or, does a large volume of work staring back at you serve to energize you?