My boss once told me “The faintest pencil is stronger than the sharpest memory.” The human brain is a very powerful supercomputer. Not once does it stop working throughout your life. Every second, the brain processes a lot of information and controls many things you are not even aware of such as heart rate. Latest estimates suggest the brain has up to 2.5 petabytes (Google it) of storage space. Despite possessing this unfathomable amount of memory, the brain is not good at keeping ideas.
Your brain generates thousands of ideas each day but unless you are focusing on them, they soon fade from your working memory. This is a good thing because it stops you from chasing a stray thought while driving along an express way. From a personal productivity perspective, however, this is bad news. It’s the reason why no matter how intelligent you think you are, it’s never a good idea to plan a project in your head: You will forget something important.
That’s what makes to-do lists very effective planning tools. When you write a task down, you are removing the pressure to remember it at the right time. As long as you keep your list in an easily accessible place all day, you can get your important tasks done.
A to-do list also helps by taking advantage of a unique feature of the human brain: it hates incomplete tasks. Writing a task down is like creating a folder in your brain with the label “incomplete task.” This creates a burning desire to change that label to “Completed.” That task occupies mental space in your brain until it gets done. By the time, you have completed the task and crossed it off your to-do list, your brain records this as a victory and releases dopamines, chemicals that make you feel good.
Not every productive person captures their tasks on a to-do list but every one of them has a system where tasks can be written down. Which system are you using?