This week, Rebel Lux is delighted to present a guest post from Alicia over at Openquote Designs about the importance of writing down your daily to-do list! Let's hear what Alicia has to say:
A to do list is one of the most underestimated yet powerful tools that anyone who wants to be productive can have. It’s versatile: you can write it on any ole’ scrap of paper, save it into your phone, or as any planner girl would know, write it into your planner. There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of crossing something off your list and knowing that you have accomplished something.
So, why is it that a to do list is so effective? Let’s take a look at the reasons.
It helps us organise the chaos
With random things from ‘call Aunt Cecelia’ to ‘reply business inquiry’ and ‘do the laundry’ all in your head at the same time, it’s easy to see why life can seem (more than) a bit messy. When you write these things down, you can categorise them (for example, personal and work tasks), and even if you decide to just do a brain dump and write everything down in one place, the fact that it’s all on paper helps you feel more in control of your life.
It forces us to focus
Because that’s what we really need in this fast-paced environment. Writing things down forces us to think about what is important enough to be on our to do list, and helps us streamline our thoughts. Scientists recommend us to take notes on paper because it makes us more concise, forcing us to focus on what is essential. Making a list will give you the opportunity to re-evaluate each task
Pro tip: try coming up with a daily or weekly focus. For example, your focus can be to meal prep today and finish an essay tomorrow. Your weekly focus can be ‘organise craft room’, or ‘exercise’. You can always have more than one, but try to make sure it is really a focus and goal that you will carry throughout that day or week.
The Zeigarnik effect
It has been observed that people remember incomplete tasks better than completed ones. You may ask, doesn’t this mean that I don’t need a to do list? Well, no. Keeping incomplete tasks in your mind directs energy away from what you are doing right now, meaning that you aren’t at your optimum productivity. By writing your tasks down, you are freeing up valuable brain power so that you can work at your very best.
Charles Schwab paid $25,000 to learn about to do lists
The first person in modern times to use to do lists to increase productivity in his business paid someone $25,000 to teach him this trick. You’ve gotten it for free, so why not?
Anyone who has made a to do list will know that crossing or checking off a task is a lovely feeling of accomplishment, even if it’s something as simple as cleaning your computer screen. I don’t know about you, but I have written down something I have already done just to be able to cross it off!
Never waste time
10 minutes before an appointment, 15 minutes before the laundry is done, and 5 minutes before you have to leave the house. It all adds up. By keeping a master list of things that you have to do, you will always be productive when you would otherwise just be killing time. Example of things that could go on this list?
- Email Emily to ask if she’s free for lunch
- Call to confirm restaurant booking
- Dust coffee table
It helps us to say no
We’ve all been there: a friend or colleague asks for help and you say yes, only to realise that you don’t actually have time for it. If you have a to do list with you, you will always know how much you can handle and when you can commit to a little bit more. Remember that you don’t have to feel guilty about saying no. At the end of the day, it’s best for the both of you. My rationale is that I will only say ‘yes’ to someone or something if I know I can give my all to it - that, to me, is only fair for everyone.
Stay accountable to yourself
How many times have you gotten a few months into a new year and realised that you still haven’t started working on your resolutions? By being intentional about this and writing it down, you are helping yourself become the better you that you want to be.
Want to read a book this month? Make sure that it makes it into your list. Remember our earlier tip - break it down into manageable chunks. You could write ‘read chapter 1’, or perhaps simply ‘read for 20 minutes before sleeping’.
Famous people do it
Last but not least, it’s pretty hard to say no to Madonna, Ellen Degeneres, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Martha Stewart. If these celebrities who manage to cram so much into their day use to do lists, it’s at least worth a shot!
Okay, so now you know why you NEED a to-do list. But how do you write a good one? Alicia's got you covered there too! Head on over to her blog post on How To Make An Effective To Do List to get 15 fabulous tips on writing a list that works for you.
Alicia is pursuing her law studies in the University of Cambridge. When she is not hitting the books, she designs planners that help people to Live Life Inspired, and shares posts on her blog with productivity hacks, and tips on how to stay organised.