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How to Complete Your To-Do List

How to Complete Your To-Do List

Conquer your to-do lists

Vicki Santillano | DivineCaroline

September 09, 2010

I love making to-do lists. To borrow a line from the movie Clueless, it gives me a sense of control in a world full of chaos. When I put a solid line through something I’ve completed, that small surge of accomplishment propels me toward the next task. But on the flip side, a long list of uncrossed-off items—which, let’s be honest, occurs more often than not—has an overwhelmingly opposite effect. Since to-do lists are supposed to increase productivity, not inhibit it, I have a feeling mine could use improvement.

Now that I’ve done some research, it turns out that I’m not only right, but also not alone—many habitual to-do-list creators inadvertently turn what should give us a sense of control into an even bigger source of stress. Are your to-do lists hindering your progress more than facilitating it? You might be making some of these common mistakes.

You keep long-running lists.
A long list of tasks may make you feel extra responsible … until you realize that you haven’t finished even a third of them by the day’s end. If you start the week with one to-do list and constantly add to it every time a new responsibility comes up, it’s liable to become as long as your arm. Instead, start each morning with one list covering specifically what you must accomplish that day only, and save anything else for a future list. According to author David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, “If there’s something on a daily to-do list that doesn’t absolutely have to get done that day, it will dilute the emphasis on the things that truly do.”

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