To Do List or Not To Do List? That is the Question

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Anne Weeks
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First, why use a to-do list? Isn’t it just more work? David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, gives several real-life scenarios of how a to-do list can make you more efficient and will lower stress.


But, is it just a to-do list that helps? What about creating a not-to-do list as well?


The not-to-do list can help you organize those projects/chores you want to get done but just are not a priority at the moment. You don’t want to forget them, but you do want to accomplish them eventually.

Let’s begin with the to-do list:
  • Write down all the things you want to accomplish
  • Prioritize your list from urgent to what can wait (can waits go on your not-to-do list)
  • As you complete each task, strike it out. As the list shortens, you will feel accomplished
  • If you have large projects, you can organize the list with the project as a whole, or you can break down the project into daily steps, so you chip away at it step-by-step
  • If you would like a worksheet to get you started, read here
The not-to-do list:
  • These tasks are still a priority, but they do not need to be accomplished right away
  • Prioritize these tasks as well, but they come from the least important tasks on your original list
Other subcategories you can add:
  • In a survey titled What Success Means to Americans, being happy in your career is partly dependent on three things: loving what you do, building relationships, and achieving personal goals
  • So, add a subcategory to your to-do list that has steps to accomplish each of these three goals
  • Or, organize your to-do list under the three categories – and, your not-to-do list can be written through the lens of these three goals as well
Tools to help:
  • Try Google Keep, which allows you to keep multiple lists and notes and to share across devices and with other people
  • Try Wunderlist, which not allows lists and sharing, but it can set reminders and deadlines
  • Try Todoist, which does much the same as the others, but it’s simple design is a benefit
  • Try do if you’re someone who prefers voice entry over tapping
  • Try Remember the Milk if you will have a lot of subtasks
  • Try Clear if you want to easily separate work and personal tasks
  • Try Habitica if you lack motivation, as it puts your task managing into gaming mode!


For more on the science of being more productive, read hereFor more on how list-making can add to your happiness, read here.


Good Luck!

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Anne Weeks

Anne Macleod Weeks is a graduate of Lawrence and Villanova Universities. She has been an educational administrator and English teacher for 38 years, specializing in the area of college admission. Ms. Weeks has been a leader in the college admission and Advanced Placement arenas and has published on pertinent educational topics in a variety of national papers and journals. She currently resides in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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