“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide on what to do” (Elbert Hubbard).
We all occasionally end up at one point or another having an immense amount of things to accomplish in a period of a week or two.
Regardless of if it’s from procrastination or just a busy week, we can get overwhelmed by the tasks handed to us or even created by us.
I use to-do lists very often because I want to get stuff done. However, my lists can be quite short and have things on them that take just a few moments of my time.
I believe that the creation of the list is more important itself than actually utilizing it as an organizational tool and here’s why.
Writing acknowledges the items on the list
The simple act of writing down and making the list of things to do is more important than any other part because you are acknowledging that there are things that need to get done.
You write down every task that you remember, piling on over time the other things that come to mind until you can visibly see everything that needs to be done.
You may not even need to look at the list later on because writing it has caused it to be stronger in your memory, or you already have a plan of action due to writing it with all the other tasks near.
Writing the tasks is almost like the first action taken toward getting rid of an item off the list. Everyone says the hardest part about doing something is starting it. Whether tasks are simple or hard, acknowledging them and accepting them is the start.
Writing down these items on a to-do list transfers the scattered memory of what you have to do down on paper or your phone and makes the items unforgettable and practically indestructible.
Even if you don’t look back at the list as it’s no longer needed, the comfort of having the list gives your brain a break from the stress for trying to make sure all tasks are remembered.
Lists reduce anxiety
This one should be obvious, but having the list itself is often literally storing information in a cloud. It’s always reachable and most of the time infrequently needed afterwards.
Physically written lists take the tasks into the real world making it no longer a task to rely on your memory and allow you to actually work on accomplishing the items on the list.
One thing I’ve noticed when it comes to the anxiety factor in lists is the poor judgement before the list is made.
In your head, jumbling all the things to do at once comes out to seem like a lot because you are exponentially trying to think of what needs to be done without forgetting the last item on the list you just remembered.
Writing it down makes the list seem a lot smaller than you initially imagined and this gives you more confidence in only needing the list if something known is forgotten.
Because of this, sometimes I’ll make lists just when I having nothing else to do and see the benefit of making one.
I might make one when waiting on public transportation to take me to my classes. I’ll bring out the notepad on my phone and make a new “To-do List” note and start writing stuff down that I want to get done sooner or later.
Even if I am not needing the list, it gets to me refresh and acknowledge all the things I want to do and more importantly the things I need to do.
Lists can arrange priorities
Again, as with all parts that I’ve been talking about, this is all during the creation and unused once the information settles calmly in the brain.
Seeing the actual list gives you an idea of what trumps what when it comes to getting them done.
You can see what can and cannot be done in sequence whether they are things you need to buy that are in the same store, or two things that can be combined into one.
When making the list, these appear visible because in your head, you need to balance remembering, assuring nothing is forgotten (I would consider this even more so than remembering what you already know is on the list), and arranging them in the way you think to be most efficient.
As with all these lists, they are guidelines. Information that doesn’t even need to be accessed after it’s creation. But after you finish the list, glancing at it and reading it over is enough to really get an idea of how your tasks are going to fan out and what you can start with.
If you are one to utilize the list often, you can arrange from top to bottom the priorities making it easier to follow or even pay attention to just the top item and delete as they are accomplished.
I find this especially useful for due dates making sure I have what’s due next on the list to complete them with maximum time allowed.
As for using lists, I’m not opposed to referring back to it. It would be hypocritical of me to say the least as I often do use my lists.
However, I am attempting to point out that making the list and seeing it physically on a piece of paper or a phone is so much more important than being one to repeatedly follow a list.
It’s similar to how students, including myself, still take notes in a class when the lectures are downloadable online. The act of writing it is enough to be so much more effective and easy to come back to in our heads.
The list is a powerful tool, and sometimes having the tool is enough to give confidence to accomplish what needs to be done.