To-Do Lists – Keep Them Short & Simple


I love to-do lists, they tend to inspire and while they are meant to help you focus on the tasks at hand (till done), that’s not always the case.  And some loathe such lists.  It’s just too easy to get distracted or discouraged by the mountain of chores, right there in hard copy before you.

I say ‘hard copy’ because I like to jot them down the old fashioned way – by hand. There’s a lot of freedom in checking things off the list by hand, rather than using key strokes. Think of it as a small way to maintain handwriting skills, which may otherwise become obsolete in today’s high-tech texting era.

Now, back to the benefits and evils of to-do lists. When there’s a special function to prepare for and a limited time-frame to get things done, a to-do list is a must – no question there.  But I’m talking about those daily to-do lists that are more of a wish list in terms of what we hope to accomplish that day.

Putting these hopeful thoughts on paper though it sounds good, can have negative effects. And not everyone welcomes a to-do list. Some look at such lists with terror in their eyes and are defeated before they even get started. So while there are benefits to to-do lists such as serving as reminders, helping us to stay on track, or the thrill when you can check one off, there is a downside – the fear of failure.

So how do we stay focused without getting discouraged with our own to-do list and also use lists as teaching tools for the kids? Here are a few tips to make to-do lists a help and not a hindrance:

  • Keep it simple.  Especially for kids’ lists.
  • Keep it short.
  • Be realistic.  Cleaning the garage may take all day and all your energy.
  • Be reasonable.  Allow time for incidentals, interruptions, meals.
  • Start fresh in the morning; avoid carrying over half a list.
  • At the end of the day – accept nothing less than ‘well done’.

It’s better to have only 4 things on your list and get them completed, than to have a long list that’s only half done at the end of the day.  A shorter list will keep you more focused and will ward off discouragement because at the onset, it looks achievable – and it really is.

Also avoid making to-do lists for other adults.  Some abhor such lists and rebel at the mere thought of written orders.  Let them do their own lists, mentally or otherwise.  A gentle reminder later, may be sufficient.  At the end of the day, think of what you’ve accomplished, rather than what you didn’t.  You did it!

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