The short answer is… you don’t.
There’s no such thing like a to-do list. It’s actually more like a should-do list!
Simply forget it! DELETE IT!
But before that, let me explain why!
iDone published interesting statistics in its “The Busy Person’s guide” based on data from its own app and states not-so surprising facts:
- 41% of to-do items were never completed
- 15% of „dones“ started as to-do item
Even worse, the rest are only small to-do’s which could be done within a really short amount of time — like a few minutes, an hour or a day.
Remember the famous book “Getting Things Done”? In a nutshell it says: If it is actionable and takes only a few minutes… THEN SIMPLY DO IT!
Now, that’s part of the reason why I call them “Should-do List”.
Well, because usually it just gets bigger. But we barely tick anything off.
How do you feel if you look at your own To-Do’s?
Probably bad and even a little guilty, right? Don’t worry, I know the feeling. I even felt like one big failure just thinking about it!
A few years ago when I found myself adding new stuff to the list I said to myself in all honesty:
“Why do I even bother? I know I will never do it”.
So I ended up not adding it. The item was “Conduct an Advanced Mathematical Course”. It was part of a previous course I did a few years ago, so already had “paid for” it.
I asked myself the following question:
“Other than that being a great or cool idea, what is the real reason to do this course? What is my benefit?”
There was simply none.
I asked myself another question — which is maybe even more important:
“What happens if I don’t do this course?”
The answer was “nothing”. There was no negative impact on me or my life.
I felt relieved. I did not put additional burden on me, simply because I was honest to myself and acknowledged this doesn’t make any sense for me.
What’s the logical next step?
I went through the entire list, each and every point. I probably killed 90% of that list.
You probably end up finding things that have been on your list for even years. These are the best candidates to get deleted.
This is called “growth by elimination” — delete random stuff in order to focus on the important things that move the needle.
If you don’t achieve anything — you have most likely many other problems:
- You fully ignore the weakness of human motivation. You might have momentum in the beginning, but it doesn’t help you in the long run.
- Targets are not measurable (remember SMART?) — so you don’t even know when you’re done and what steps, how much time it takes!
- Short and long term goals are not aligned. You want to be a millionaire? Start first by finding out how you can make 10.000€!
- We don’t get our priorities right (a.k.a. “I don’t have time”) and oh, let me check Instagram!
- Technology is great… but it is not going to save you — there’s no need of yet another magic app
Only if you fix those problems you can set yourself up for success!
Just please, please kill your goddamn should-do list!