Reasons to use a to-do list

Todoist screenshot

Todoist screenshot

For some of us, lists are something which are not under question. We enjoy making lists about anything at all, we get a certain satisfaction from crossing things off; the lists are almost enjoyable for their own sake. For others, a list of tasks is demotivating, depressing and doesn’t get looked at enough to be of use. If you fall into the second camp, here are some reasons why I like lists:

  1. An anti-distraction tool
    Maybe you’re working on an important document, or trying to meditate, or something else which requires a lot of concentration. For me, this is prime time for a string of “I need to…” and “I mustn’t forget to…” thoughts to parade through my head. If you have a to-do list, this is easy to resolve. I note them down and then push them out of my mind, confident that they won’t be forgotten because now they’re on the list.
  2. Motivation for non-finishers
    This suggestion is hypothetical, because I already love lists and love crossing things off, but perhaps even those of you who are not list fans could come to enjoy that feeling when you can remove something from the list. For me, it can be an opportunity to bask in the feeling of productiveness. I mean, it feels good when you finish a really big task, but sometimes if you’re working on a few small tasks, you don’t flag up each individual achievement to yourself. Looking back over the list reminds you of what you’ve done and you have a chance to feel good about it. In addition, if you don’t finish things because you forget about them, a list could help with that.
  3. Ideas percolator
    Sometimes I put things on my list because I’m not ready to do them immediately. Sometimes, they stay on the list for a while and then I look at them and realise I can’t remember why I wanted to do them, or how they would benefit me. In that case, they get crossed off the list guilt-free, since I know I’ve considered them and they no longer serve a purpose.
  4. Record of achievement
    Whatever list format you use, it can be quite satisfying to look back over your list and see how many things you’ve done since you started. I originally used a written list in a book, and I could see progress by how far I was moving through the book. Nowadays I use Todoist, which gives me “karma points” for every task I tick off, removes those tasks from the list but allows me to review them if I feel like it.
  5. Reminder
    Perhaps the most obvious use is as a reminder for stuff that you really mustn’t forget. I add things like making doctor and dentist appointments, or sending birthday cards, as and when I think of them (usually at an inconvenient moment). I check the list regularly (a few times a week), in different locations (Todoist is online and I can also check it on my phone) and at different times of day, so usually at least one of them will be a good time to complete a specific task.

2 thoughts on “Reasons to use a to-do list

  1. Pingback: The Backwards To-Do List | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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