This article points out that psychologists say that obsessive compulsive list makers are trying to create an illusion of control in otherwise chaotic lives. List making definitely feels to me like a sense of control as even when I can't change the amount that needs to be done by knowing what's needed it feels more manageable.
I can hear the cries now: I don't have time to make a list. I know what I need to get done, there's just too much. It's going to take too long, etc. It's true, the tasks can seem overwhelming but by getting them down on a list you can actually assess them and start planning.
Richard Branson said, "it is by ticking off each task that my ideas take shape and plans move forward". He advises to "Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day".
The first thing I thought here was to start adding things to the to do list that I can guarantee I'll achieve each day just to get that sense of achievement. Something like "Eat Breakfast" or "Get dressed" but I don't think that's what he means.
Break It Down
Either at the start of the day, or the end, spend a few minutes creating the next to do list. Write down what needs to be done and break it down into smaller tasks if it is really big. Each task should be no more than 1-2 hours each.
Once you've got your to do list it can still be unhelpful unless you look at the order of importance. Some items will require near immediate attention and others could, if they had to, be looked at another day. The reason for prioritising is to stop you feeling stressed by a large number of unimportant jobs and to ensure you tackle the most necessary jobs first.
Some people add a number to rank each list item, some rewrite the list with the important tasks at the top, and others use a highlighter. You know what works for you.
Technology & Lists
There are lots of list making apps and software available these days and even to do list templates (really!) but I'm still a fan of pen and paper as, I think, nothing can beat the feeling of crossing items off once completed.
Now over to you for your thoughts. Do you write to do lists and does it help? Or do you write it and then forget to look at it?
Also see: Procrastinator Extraordinaire.