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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

To-do lists should be used for only one thing: getting done what needs to get done. As great as it felt to cross out “Buy gum” (and subsequently chew the gum), it didn’t make “Pay credit card bill” or “Email so-and-so back” happen any faster. Really, ending the day with a task-free to-do list is a much more effective way to feel good about yourself.

You put big projects on your list.
If my “Buy gum” reference wasn’t indication enough, I can get pretty detailed in my to-do lists—perhaps overly so, since it often leads to a disturbingly long (and anxiety-inducing) list. But being too vague, such as by adding something like “Get vacation stuff sorted out” (something I actually found on one of my previous lists) is an even bigger issue. It’s even more overwhelming than one big list, because there’s no obvious starting point. Plus, you increase the risk of forgetting a small but essential detail, like making sure someone waters the plants or takes care of pets in your absence. Make sure that what’s on your list is a series of manageable tasks that you can take care of that day.

You call them to-do lists.
Clearly, I’ve got no problem with calling a set of daily tasks my to-do list. However, a few time-management experts believe that “to-do” isn’t action-oriented enough to motivate. Instead, they recommend calling them “commitment lists,” “action items,” or other names meant to invoke prompt responses. If thinking of your daily duties as “to-dos” doesn’t give you the inspirational push you need, try using words that emphasize their significance.

Looking over my previous to-do (or “commitment”) lists, it’s clear why so many of them have uncrossed-off tasks—I’ve been doing them wrong this whole time! But now that I know there are ways to increase a list’s effectiveness, no longer will I transfer unfinished responsibilities from one day to the next in shame and disappointment. I can’t wait to see how far I can go beyond “Buy gum” in terms of accomplishments tomorrow.

This article was originally published on DivineCaroline.

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