Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A List Apart

Ever found yourself staring at a to-do list that never seems to get finished? Well you’re not alone. The list wasn’t famously described as the “origin of culture” by Umberto Eco for nothing – it’s the tool of our subconscious minds use to help ensure we get things done.

I recently wrote about Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength, and in addition to helping people improve their willpower, the book explores both the history of the humble to-do list and how we can make the most of this tool.

The to-do list has been a part of everyday life for millennia – everyone from the crafters of the Bible to Drew Carey has used them to achieve their goals. But despite being such a fundamental organizational tool, people are still working out how to make list work for them and create fulfillment instead of frustration.

Thankfully, by analyzing the history of the to-do list, the authors of the book give three tips to make your list fail-proof. According to them, your list should be:

  • Specific - reconcile “fussy with the fuzzy”

  • Actionable - achievable short-term tasks working towards long-term goals

  • Non-conflicting - don’t include items that conflict with each other – you’ll wind up achieving nothing