The Power of To Do Lists

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I recently read a book by, Henriette M. Klauser, Ph.D. “Write It Down, Make It Happen” in fact I passed it onto a friend who was going through a difficult time in her life.  I encouraged her to write down the outcome she would like and how she envisioned her life should be.   By writing down your goals and desires, you are much more likely to make those dreams a reality.

Research shows that people who write down their goals are about twice as likely to achieve them as those who do not. And if you count those who write down their goals but don’t quite meet them, they still get a lot closer than they would have if they hadn’t written them down in the first place. Therefore, you can see the strong case for committing to your goals in writing.

This research is true in long-term goals like building your dream house or traveling the world  – but what does all of this have to do with daily To-Do lists?  Well, what is a To-Do list but a list of goals for the day? That means by writing your daily goals list on paper, you are more than twice as likely to make significant process towards checking those items off than if you just flew by the seat of your pants. Here are some tips to help you create do-able, effective To-Do lists:

1. Make it reasonable.
We are all too familiar with the endless To-Do list, the one with dozens of items, more than you could accomplish in a week, let alone a day. While writing every single thing you have to do down on a list may make you feel like you are getting your life under control, it’s actually counterproductive. Not only will critical tasks get lost in the muddle, you can become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of things you have to accomplish. It may be more attractive to just take a nap!

2. Make it specific.
One of the biggest problems with To-Do lists is that people write down projects versus tasks. Anything that goes on your list should be something you can actually accomplish, such as “Call Joe about product release plans,” instead of “Finalize product release.” If you write down projects instead of tasks, you can’t ever cross them off – they just sit on your list and migrate from one day to the next which is obviously very frustrating. On the other hand, basic Psychology teaches that rewards make us want to do an activity more – so every time we check off an item on our list, it motivates us to do more. You can only do that if the items are small enough to check off. However…

3. Make it important.
I have been tempted to write down things on my list just so I can cross them off. And while this gives me a little momentary boost, it does not do much to move you closer to your goals. So before something makes it onto your list, ask yourself if it’s critical to the completion of your goals. If not, don’t even write it down. (Trust me, you will remember to “eat lunch” even if you don’t have it on your daily list!)

When used correctly, To-Do lists are powerful tools that can help you to accomplish more in less time. By “respecting the list” and following these three tips, you’ll have a daily To-Do list that will harness your energy and help you blast closer toward your biggest goals.
Oh and as for my friend she has now achieved her dream of living by the lake…… so go on give it a go!