To-do lists are a very useful tool for completing tasks. You wouldn’t catch me at work without one. However, if they have, one disadvantage, it is that they can encourage short-term thinking where the aim becomes completing as many low-value tasks as possible each day so you can have the satisfaction of crossing many items off your list. In order to be most effective, your to-do lists have to be tied to a larger system: Long-term goals.
Instead of a to-do list filled with a dozen low-value tasks, your long-term goal will often be better served by three important tasks each day. The aim is to work to create a system where you build habits that are as simple as possible to carry out daily but move you in the direction of your long-term goal. For example, a commitment to read 5 pages of self-development material per day feeds into the long-term goal of reading at least 4 personal development books a year.
To illustrate the value of simple tasks feeding into smaller systems, let’s think about this blog. I publish new posts every Thursday. In order to ensure I don’t run out of material to publish, my to-do list for each week contains reoccurring tasks to write two articles per week. This provides me with a steady stream of articles to edit, review and schedule as needed. It also ensures that in the event of unproductive week (Yes I have them too), I have enough material available to meet my self-imposed deadline. I am yet to miss a Weekly Post so it definitely works.
Let’s break it down. The long-term goal is to publish an article on AmirWrites every week. The simple behaviour that feeds into the long-term goal is writing two articles each week. This behaviour is captured by reoccurring tasks on my to-do list for the week. In this way, the to-do list feeds into my goal of maintaining a consistent blog.
Take a look at the tasks on your to-do list for this week. Are they feeding into a long-term goal? If they are not, it’s time to review how you use that tool.