This post is for the latter group (of which I count myself as a member), especially anyone who wants to establish the to-do list habit but hasn't been able, well, to do so.
A recent Fast Company article by Laura Vanderkam suggests that to-do lists often don't work because they reflect more of who we wish we were than who we actually are:
"The biggest problem, I think, is that our to-do lists don’t reflect what we actually intend to do. They reflect the things we think we should do, or that someone else has told us we are supposed to do. They contain items that we’d tackle in a different universe, or if we were different people." Read More
An example for a college student might be making a to-do list that includes three straight hours of homework without a break, a strict no-sugar and snack-free diet so as to ward off the freshman fifteen, and a five-mile run, even though you have never in your life done any of those things. What will the result be? Most probably, you will sneak a peek at your list before going to bed and feel like a failure, making it much less likely to continue your new habit tomorrow.
Vanderkam suggests, instead, to begin by listing only those goals and tasks that you know you will accomplish:
"The point is to turn the to-do list into a list of things that actually get done. Yes, it may feel strange to create a to-do list that includes attending five previously scheduled meetings, checking your favorite websites (like this one!), and grabbing lunch at the Chipotle three blocks away, but that’s a to-do list that can actually happen. At the end of the day, you can truly say that you did everything you intended to do. You’ll feel like a rock star! Do this enough days in a row, and a funny thing will happen. Your to-do list will no longer seem like a foreign document describing an alternate universe. It will feel like a contract with yourself."
After a few days, you can begin to add items that are more of a stretch, but only after your new habit is a friend rather than an enemy.
Do you make to-do lists? Do you enjoy the process or dread it? What works for you?