Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Musings - Does Making To-Do Lists Actually Work?

I like to make to-do lists.  They make me slow down and take stock of what it is I'm trying to accomplish, which is great.  Do they actually help me to get that stuff done, though? 

Um, not always. 

Probably not even 50% of the time.

Why is that?

Let me illustrate:

At the beginning of spring, I made the following To-Do list.  It was a list of projects that I'd been thinking about and decided I just needed to get done this summer.

Sew Cushions
Sewing Dining Room Cushions
Sew Valiant's Pillow Sham
Sew Cushion for Bench
Sand & Paint Laundry Room Bench
Sew Patio Cushions
Paint Light Fixtures
Paint "black hole" Door
Paint Two Sections of Fire Pit Circle
Laundry Room -
    Paint entire laundry room
    Paint bathroom off laundry room
    Paint frame of mirror black
    Make cushion for Laundry Room Bench

Of this list, I have completed just three things!

Sewed cushions
Sewed Valiant's Pillow Sham
Painted the Outside Light Fixture

The rest of the stuff?  Still needs to be done and still needs to be done by me.  Here we are, well into fall, and I have not come even close to crossing off most of the things on my to-do list.  Actually, so far, I've achieved a humbling 23% completion rate.  I'm feeling pretty unsuccessful and not particularly productive.

Yet, by the same token, I wrote a two-page to-do list last Monday.  Everything from car registration to grocery lists to blog posts for the upcoming week.  I finished everything on the list by Wednesday.  An impressive 100% completion rate.  I feel truly productive.

To-Do lists come in a number of categories...short-term, necessary, and time dependent tasks are on one list, while optional, long-term, and "whenever" tasks are on a different To-Do list.  I find both helpful.  Both type of lists help me organize my thoughts, prioritize the tasks I have, and manage my time.  In that way, to-do lists do work for me. 

Do I get more done?  I like to think I do.  I'm thinking of breaking down my projects from my long-term list into short tasks within tasks to make progress on those projects, too.  Progress is contagious, right?

What about you?  Do you use To-Do lists?  Do they work for you?


Anonymous said...

Love my To Do lists - especially when I don't ignore them!

Tutus and Choo-Choos said...

I do not make "to-do" lists. Although some days I probably should to keep me on track and to not forget something.

Anonymous said...

I make grocery and shopping lists and then kill my boyfriend and kid for ruining it. Even if I go to the fabric store, I don't deviate from them.

Other than that, no. I'm chaotic enough. I could make a to do list, laugh in its face and go have lunch.

pam said...

Erin, if i may - To Do Lists are only the beginning. When they are the beginning and the end - most of the items never get done!

Why! Because they are never moved from the to do list to the calendar. This is especially true for the "optional, long-term" tasks.

I just saying....