To Do List

How to use a to-do list: Remembering Tasks Is Exhausting

6 Min Read
How to use a to-do list: Remembering Tasks Is Exhausting

How to use a to-do list to free up space in your head.

“I don’t have to write that down. I’ll remember it.”

To-do lists and checklists are a great way of getting stuff done. Overwhelmed by the tasks we have to complete whether through procrastination or just a really hectic week. Trying to remember so much so nothing is forgotten can be challenging.

We are not designed to remember everything due to the nature of our short-term memories. Nobody is capable of remembering everything so why not use a To-do list as an external memory aid. 

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How to use a to-do list

The simplicity of to-do lists and checklists allows you to remove that constant drone of tasks to-do from the mind which can overwhelm us onto paper. 

Working out what needs to be done, prioritising tasks, then slowly work through them one-by-one, and get that amazing buzz when you cross them off as complete.

Breaking down complicated tasks into much smaller, more manageable tasks. 

Documenting tasks is the first step towards completing an item off that list.

Three Reasons to Use To-Do Lists

Why do we love to-do lists? How to use a to-do list to help reduce anxiety and become more productive.

Reduce Anxiety & Improved Memory: Free up extra brain capacity.  Allow you to work on the task rather than focusing on remembering to do it. Jumbling up trying to work out what needs to be done but also not forgetting another task to be remembered.

To-do lists allow you to refresh and acknowledge things you want to do and most importantly the things you need to get done.

Priorities & Structured Plan: Creating an actual list gives you a clear idea of what is the most important to accomplish when it comes to getting the priority tasks done. Also, some tasks will need another completion beforehand and the balance of remembering can blur that important step.

Helping you plan your workflow management and giving you a clear plan to follow to achieve everything you need to.

Achievement and Productivity: Keep yourself motivated. Ticking items off a checklist gives you proof of what we have accomplished and achieved in the day, or the last week or over the months. 

To-do lists are a great motivational tool because it gives clarity to your goals. Listing steps in the process to accomplish your goal gives you achievable short-term goals. The feeling of success every time you tick off an item off that you are close to completing your goals.

Psychology of the To-Do List

In the 1920s Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik carried out a study and identified what she called the “Zeigarnik effect” where people remember things they need to do far better than things they’ve accomplished.

A more recent study, by professors Baumeister and Masicampo called “Consider It Done! Plan Making Can Eliminate the
Cognitive Effects of Unfulfilled Goals”. Showing that tasks we haven’t completed can distract us, but making a simple plan like a to-do list or checklist to get them done can free us from this anxiety it causes.

“Simply writing the tasks down will make you more effective.”

Give your Mind Permission to Forget

To-do list and checklists are simple but very powerful tools for productivity and way for task management

Writing a to-do list will help “declutter your brain.” Seeing a clear plan of completed and uncompleted tasks helps you get more organised and stay mentally focused. Recording all your tasks in a to-do list can help identify priority tasks so you can prioritise the most important tasks.

Having a list of all your tasks allows making a plan and better time management. But also gives your mind permission to forget.

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