Recently, my weekend to-do list included throwing out a pile of old magazines. By coincidence, while flipping through a few before tossing them, I found a short article about to-do lists! The quote that caught my eye was, “Research shows that list makers are healthier and happier”.

As a first-degree list maker who is frequently teased by my family, that was music to my ears!

The article suggested the majority of us keep to-do lists; some on paper, some on computers or mobile devices, while others simply have post-it notes strategically placed throughout the office or home. One of my friends swears by the old fashion stenographer’s note book. And I’ve recently noticed more and more business people writing in journals to keep track of meetings and tasks.

Using to-do lists is a great way to track everything from projects to at work, to your shopping needs, to household jobs or even your long term goals.

Some list makers divide their lists into ‘Must-Do’ and ‘Nice-To-Do’. This helps focus on the must be completed items, versus the nice to have caught up on items. Many put timelines beside each item to help them plan their day, or prepare a to-do list at the end of the work day knowing it will focus them for the following day. Others list their items as A-B-C to indicate levels of priority.

Whatever works for you is what you should use. But don’t be afraid to try different things until you find what works, don’t forget to “stress-proof” your list:

  • Keep Two Lists - Consider both a daily/weekly list, and a separate longer-range task list. It is a great way to maximize your brainpower, as most of us can only keep seven to nine different things in our working memory. With your to-do lists, you free up brainpower and might actually get everything done!
  • Share the Work Load - Once you’ve created your to-do lists, you may recognize the need to delegate some of your tasks to others.
  • Don’t Forget the Fun - Always make certain you include at least one fun thing on your list... something scheduled into your time that you WANT to do, instead of NEED to do.
  • The 90 Day Rule - If a task has been on your to-do list for three months and still isn’t completed, does it really need to be done? Is it really that important or are you procrastinating? If procrastinating, stop and just do it!

One thing the magazine article didn’t talk about was the pleasure we list makers take in checking the items off our to-do lists when they are completed. It’s that little upbeat sense of accomplishment. In fact, sometimes I find myself writing down completed tasks that weren’t on the original list, and then checking them off, just because I deserve that little burst of satisfaction!

The only word of caution I would have for a list maker is to be careful who you make lists for. Others may not share our enthusiasm for to-do lists as a method of keeping ourselves organized and achieving our goals.

About Dale

Dale Wilcox is co-owner of WATMEC. Dale is a respected board member, former volunteer of the year, and inaugural Chair of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.