View Full Version : TODO lists, good or bad?


tomasl
06-28-16, 10:29 AM
On many website and books I read it's a very effective strategy to have todo-lists that have tasks on it divided into small parts.

In my mind sometimes the exact opposite has shown to be true. If I start making to-do lists , i will find myself overwhelmed, and became passive for long periods of time, and my to-do list just grows and grows.

Sometimes it just works for me to destroy my entire to-do list (even though all the things on it seemed really important). Somehow the important tasks will come up again, and if they are important enough, history has shown I always completed these tasks.

could to-do lists make things worse?

roflwaffle
06-29-16, 02:27 AM
I've found it depends on the specifics. Like you, I'm sometimes overwhelmed and stress-out, which leads to me avoiding the things I need to do, and that isn't very effective. I've had better luck limiting the amount of time I spend thinking/planning about something and making sure to start/follow through with it.

stef
06-29-16, 03:17 AM
I absolutely need a written list to function; (apps do not work for me)
but yes it overwhelms me, easily.
I have a big list in different colored pens on a legal pad at work (it also has stuff for home on the bottom)

For a while I was writing out every step of every single thing but that just got so discouraging and visually it actually was upsetting; so well one day i was in a hurry and just wrote something in two words in marker (it was the first pen i grabbed) and i realized this simpler format worked much better. And when something is done I completely cross it off and scribble it out so I can't see the words anymore.

Anyway, it takes lots of trial and error to find what works best!

sarahsweets
06-29-16, 03:55 AM
I think Ive come to realize that to do lists are only helpful for me if the tasks are easy to accomplish. Most times I write such long ones or impossible lists that I avoid doing any of it altogether.

Fuzzy12
06-29-16, 07:11 AM
I think to do lists need to be extremely customised to your needs in order to be useful. I used to just plonk down every task short and long term and felt overwhelmed by my ever growing never ending to do lists...ie if I didn't lose or misplace or forget about the lists.

Now I use a mobile app (easyNote for android) which makes it extremely simple to add lists and strike them out once they are done. As I can see what I've done it gives me a feeling of success with every accomplished task.

I also only add those tasks which I can realistically accomplish in a day and i am not to have more than 1 or 2 tasks that are left in accomplished every day. This helps not feeling overwhelmed.

Many of those tasks are really small like taking my vitamin tablets or obvious like taking a shower but again it helps me to do them.

Unmanagable
06-29-16, 08:42 AM
It depends upon the day, the source of the list, and the intent behind the tasks.

stef
06-29-16, 08:48 AM
the thing for me is, if it doesn't get written down, it just isn't going to happen (unless it's so important that I will obsess over it, anyway).
But then I become a prisoner of the list.

sarahsweets
06-29-16, 09:40 AM
I think I have a mental aversion to lists or something. I just need to get over it and use them as a tool. I dont know whats up with me lately.

Little Missy
06-29-16, 09:55 AM
I have to use a list. But only what absolutely must be done. It is appointments or more than one appointment per month that really rattles me.
Only had an oil change appointment this month so I've been pretty happy. It takes about 2 weeks to get one at the dealer because it is so small yet so very, very busy. My list is ready with the bills to do them all on Friday.

bluejay14
06-29-16, 10:40 AM
What works for me is different types of lists for different things - to avoid the feelings of overwhelm.

So I have medium and long term lists (on my computer/phone apps) to make sure I don't completely forget about the bigger picture. But my daily To Do list usually starts with about 4 or 5 things on it. Sometimes really small things like 'brush teeth' (I kid you not).
As I work through things I add to it. But I deliberately stop it from getting long to the point of freaking me out. That's what the medium term list is for - to park things where they won't get forgotten but they're not on my radar for that day.

I also keep my diary scheduling separate from lists (otherwise my lists look too long). So I rely on calendar reminders for stuff like that, and check my diary at the start of every day to make sure that I'm aware of any appointments/meetings etc (at least in theory - I may still forget them!)

Catdog
06-29-16, 11:33 AM
I tend to forget to check my to-do list, so it becomes an exercise in futility to write one.

aeon
06-29-16, 01:21 PM
They work for me, but with a few guidelines:


limited to the to-dos of today and maybe tomorrow
make another list with longer timeframes
do not mix short-term and long-term on the same list
prioritize
not micro-detailed, just the overall tasks
remain the master, don’t become slave to the list
must be easy to get to and use - for me, paper
forget the “need” to get all things done
purpose is to keep focused, not a must-do list
take pride in what gets done and done well
what remains goes on the next day’s list
it is a tool to help, not a lash to punish oneself


Cheers,
Ian

aviyah
06-29-16, 03:58 PM
In my experience organized schedule reduce my anxiety(As long as there is no too much information and detail).

C15H25N3O
06-30-16, 09:23 PM
It is bad to fight procrastrination due to anxiety enforces procrastrination while motivation and decision fight anxiety.
It is good already being motivated or having started the work and perfect being in a flow-state not to forget any tasks.

I think it is similar to a shopping list. It does not work if you dont leave the house. Being at the shop without the list you forget something to buy.

I have better control on paper or stickers on my screen than using any digital device which mean too much distractionl.

mrh235
06-30-16, 11:50 PM
Great as long as you don't hyperfocus on them. I could never think linearly enough to actually organize one before my ADHD is treated, now they're a god send for organization and quickly knocking responsibilities and other **** off, even though I can remember now.

WheresMyMind
07-21-16, 10:35 PM
On many website and books I read it's a very effective strategy to have todo-lists that have tasks on it divided into small parts.

In my mind sometimes the exact opposite has shown to be true. If I start making to-do lists , i will find myself overwhelmed, and became passive for long periods of time, and my to-do list just grows and grows.

Sometimes it just works for me to destroy my entire to-do list (even though all the things on it seemed really important). Somehow the important tasks will come up again, and if they are important enough, history has shown I always completed these tasks.

could to-do lists make things worse?

Check out David Allen's "Getting Things Done". He makes all kinds of comments about to-do lists, and improved versions, and why some work and some don't. His system has to be embraced in layers, but after a year of working at it, my mind thinks better and I get more done.

Short answer about to-do lists: NEVER put more on it than you can get done in 2-3 hours. That much will take you all day. If your to-do list is not done by the end of the day, the guilt will ruin your next day.

Impromptu_DTour
07-21-16, 11:16 PM
So much great advice in this thread, i could quote it all, so i thumbed everyone instead (feels inappropriate to use the word fingered, yet i just spent the energy to point that out - merry Thursday!).

For myself.. its very important to use lists.. otherwise when left to my own internal devices I will screw off all day. Im the type of individual who cannot hold multiple things in my present and active conscious/awareness.. so as to say im abso-effing-lutely terrible at multitasking.

I need lists, and I obsess over them.. they have been both a tool and a crutch. A godsend and the devil's touch too. Presently Ive been working really hard to optimize how they are and are not beneficial to me.. and so far I have come to this set of strategies:

Its imperative that i avoid at all costs setting myself up for failure. Lists are meant to be positive reinforcement to my successes with my struggle to fortify my executive function.. not a constant reminder of how far behind I am.. to facilitate this I:



Make my lists achievable.. and I only make 1 Governing List per day (which may contain sublists.. i'll explain further)
This list will be small, and I make it "early" in the day, and promise myself not to add to it, or even think about what i can fit in, until after i am completed this list.
This list is set to a timer, and I give myself n minutes per item, and then i move onto the next item, and rotate around until my list becomes complete (obviously some items cant be picked up later, such as grocery shopping).
While there are things that are of greater priority, i try and prioritize everything the same, except for the obviouses, this helps me with being intimidated by certain items, and avoiding them.
When i complete an Item, i dont erase it from my list, but I make sure to acknowledge the growing Successes as i complete my list, rather than to focus on the things i still have yet to do. Sometimes I keep a list of completed things, to reflect on as the week goes on, to prove to myself how much I have been completing, as the week progresses. Depends on my moods.
To help with my rotations, i typically have 3 catagories of items to rotate between. Such as "Cleaning", "Design" (we just moved in), "Personal". I pay myself twice as much time in the "Personal" catagory as the other 2, and i set up 2 hour blocks..

[20 minutes Cleaning] [40 minutes Personal]
[20 minutes Design] [40 minutes Personal]
i rotate through. Its handy to use alarm clocks.


If i have a list item such as "Clean Bathroom Upstairs", i micromanage that, and give myself the permission to move on, as list items in the bathroom are crossed off, even if the bathroom as a whole is not complete. Big tasks sometimes gotta get broken down into smaller chunks.
Much of the time, its more important to get something DONE, than it is to do it perfectly. I try and remind myself that there is always opportunity to come back later, and perfect it. Like setting up my Turntables and my DJ Kit in the garage.. Step 1.. get it working and usable, make the space functional.. settling into the space will come as I spend more time physically there.. but i wont unless its a usable place for me to be.


My system might be complicated, but managing this is complex for me, and a daily struggle. If i was to give a summary of hints that I have found useful..:

Set up a timer, and give yourself N minutes and then switch tasks, keeps things fresh. You might micromanage things into subcats to rotate between, to keep things stimulating.

Keep your list small, and things you can complete "today". Not.. a whole ****load of things that "people" can do in a day.. be specific to your observance of your abilities, and be realistic; up the ante as you are able to, but dont set yourself up for failure. Keep it a positive experience.

Only write tomorrows potential list, the night before. Sleep on it, and then write the list for the day, that morning.

Put yourself on that list. and let yourself derail, and be gentle when pulling yourself back.

Some places ive read, the number 3, and 30 are important in our heads.. id have to find some research to support this (ie: sleep cycles and 90 minute intervals), but it works for me, which is why i try and keep things inside of 1 hour, split into 3rds, and 3 different types of lists. Sometimes if i go over on an item, i wait for the next interval to start before shifting tasks as previously planned, rather than to just break the rhythm.

i mean.. these are things that I have found work for me. i dunno.. i have issues.

iDTour

Rockkso
08-11-16, 04:02 PM
It depends on the person and on the task, really. For stuff that I can't address immediately, a To-Do list is pretty much a must for me.

For stuff that CAN be addressed immediately (and probably should), such as emails at work, I've found that the "OHIO" principle (Only Handle It Once) is the most effective thing for me. If I tag work emails into a task list I spend more time jumping between looking things up (losing my focus each time) and prioritizing what should be done first than I do actually getting them done. If I get to work and I have say, 8 emails in my inbox with different requests and no specified deadline, I could end up spending like two hours trying to figure out which order to do them in, leaving me six hours left in the workday to actually get them done. Or I could just randomly pick one and just do it and then randomly pick another one, rinse repeat. For me the latter is more productive and less stressful.

C15H25N3O
08-13-16, 02:30 PM
It depends on my motivation if to-do lists work. When I am busy they are great not to forget anything. When I am lazy they are horrible and the reminders dont work.

ToneTone
08-13-16, 02:37 PM
Wow, you sound really well organized.

Yes, I use to do lists, but to motivate myself I have to set much lower time goals that you set here ...

Tone

OhLookABunny
08-13-16, 07:00 PM
Well, when one is "blessed" with both ADD and OCD, as I am, one can make a kick--- To Do List that scares other people it's so detailed :faint: and still forget things. I'm learning a few tricks though - such as to do my very best not to schedule an appointment on a Monday or in the case of a Monday holiday week, on the Tuesday following. I will just fling myself into the week without checking.

I also have to put everything from soup to nuts on my list because anything that doesn't get written down is most likely forgotten. True, there are time-specific fixed things that are priority, vs. "floating" things that still must be done within a broader time frame but that mustn't be allowed to slide either. Coordinating the two, plus other things like interruptions, takes a lot of brain energy.

DJ Bill
08-13-16, 07:30 PM
I have to use a list. But only what absolutely must be done. It is appointments or more than one appointment per month that really rattles me.
Only had an oil change appointment this month so I've been pretty happy. It takes about 2 weeks to get one at the dealer because it is so small yet so very, very busy. My list is ready with the bills to do them all on Friday.

This:goodpost:

My best lists are for one day's worth of stuff. Sometimes even just the list of what I need to do to complete a task. The calendar gets all the stuff in the future..deadlines, due dates, appointments. etc.

Getting everything you need to do in the next year or before you die is a very overwhelming thing for most of us.

Little Missy
08-13-16, 09:04 PM
So much great advice in this thread, i could quote it all, so i thumbed everyone instead (feels inappropriate to use the word fingered, yet i just spent the energy to point that out - merry Thursday!).

For myself.. its very important to use lists.. otherwise when left to my own internal devices I will screw off all day. Im the type of individual who cannot hold multiple things in my present and active conscious/awareness.. so as to say im abso-effing-lutely terrible at multitasking.

I need lists, and I obsess over them.. they have been both a tool and a crutch. A godsend and the devil's touch too. Presently Ive been working really hard to optimize how they are and are not beneficial to me.. and so far I have come to this set of strategies:

Its imperative that i avoid at all costs setting myself up for failure. Lists are meant to be positive reinforcement to my successes with my struggle to fortify my executive function.. not a constant reminder of how far behind I am.. to facilitate this I:



Make my lists achievable.. and I only make 1 Governing List per day (which may contain sublists.. i'll explain further)
This list will be small, and I make it "early" in the day, and promise myself not to add to it, or even think about what i can fit in, until after i am completed this list.
This list is set to a timer, and I give myself n minutes per item, and then i move onto the next item, and rotate around until my list becomes complete (obviously some items cant be picked up later, such as grocery shopping).
While there are things that are of greater priority, i try and prioritize everything the same, except for the obviouses, this helps me with being intimidated by certain items, and avoiding them.
When i complete an Item, i dont erase it from my list, but I make sure to acknowledge the growing Successes as i complete my list, rather than to focus on the things i still have yet to do. Sometimes I keep a list of completed things, to reflect on as the week goes on, to prove to myself how much I have been completing, as the week progresses. Depends on my moods.
To help with my rotations, i typically have 3 catagories of items to rotate between. Such as "Cleaning", "Design" (we just moved in), "Personal". I pay myself twice as much time in the "Personal" catagory as the other 2, and i set up 2 hour blocks..

[20 minutes Cleaning] [40 minutes Personal]
[20 minutes Design] [40 minutes Personal]
i rotate through. Its handy to use alarm clocks.


If i have a list item such as "Clean Bathroom Upstairs", i micromanage that, and give myself the permission to move on, as list items in the bathroom are crossed off, even if the bathroom as a whole is not complete. Big tasks sometimes gotta get broken down into smaller chunks.
Much of the time, its more important to get something DONE, than it is to do it perfectly. I try and remind myself that there is always opportunity to come back later, and perfect it. Like setting up my Turntables and my DJ Kit in the garage.. Step 1.. get it working and usable, make the space functional.. settling into the space will come as I spend more time physically there.. but i wont unless its a usable place for me to be.


My system might be complicated, but managing this is complex for me, and a daily struggle. If i was to give a summary of hints that I have found useful..:

Set up a timer, and give yourself N minutes and then switch tasks, keeps things fresh. You might micromanage things into subcats to rotate between, to keep things stimulating.

Keep your list small, and things you can complete "today". Not.. a whole ****load of things that "people" can do in a day.. be specific to your observance of your abilities, and be realistic; up the ante as you are able to, but dont set yourself up for failure. Keep it a positive experience.

Only write tomorrows potential list, the night before. Sleep on it, and then write the list for the day, that morning.

Put yourself on that list. and let yourself derail, and be gentle when pulling yourself back.

Some places ive read, the number 3, and 30 are important in our heads.. id have to find some research to support this (ie: sleep cycles and 90 minute intervals), but it works for me, which is why i try and keep things inside of 1 hour, split into 3rds, and 3 different types of lists. Sometimes if i go over on an item, i wait for the next interval to start before shifting tasks as previously planned, rather than to just break the rhythm.

i mean.. these are things that I have found work for me. i dunno.. i have issues.

iDTour

:eek:

20thcenturyfox
10-30-16, 10:30 PM
What works for me is different types of lists for different things - to avoid the feelings of overwhelm.

So I have medium and long term lists (on my computer/phone apps) to make sure I don't completely forget about the bigger picture. But my daily To Do list usually starts with about 4 or 5 things on it. Sometimes really small things like 'brush teeth' (I kid you not).
As I work through things I add to it. But I deliberately stop it from getting long to the point of freaking me out. That's what the medium term list is for - to park things where they won't get forgotten but they're not on my radar for that day.

I also keep my diary scheduling separate from lists (otherwise my lists look too long). So I rely on calendar reminders for stuff like that, and check my diary at the start of every day to make sure that I'm aware of any appointments/meetings etc (at least in theory - I may still forget them!)

I have exactly the same problems that others mention, specifically that long to-do lists are overwhelming, BUT that short lists create new problems by becoming extra pieces of paper that get lost and/or cause anxiety from the sure knowledge that important non-urgent things are going to be forgotten with painful consequences.

The only way for me to have any hope of not losing something is to have one single master list with everything I want to remember to do on it from the sublime to the ridiculous. Somewhere I heard the master list described as a "brain dump" and the light bulb went on. It's not a list of all the things I haven't done sitting there reproaching me, it's just a brain dump, a utility whose purpose is to save me from worrying I have or will forget something. (Of course I still forget things, but I don't worry about forgetting things when they are (somewhere) on my mega list. Since looking at the megalist is either frightening or soul-deadening, I try to avoid looking at it more than about once a week, when...in principle...I pick out around 15 things I want--or more likely--need to do in the next week.

At times in the past I have been able to be productive with as many as 5 things on my daily to-do list. But now after a period of extreme fatigue and discouragement, I find I can only work on 1 or 2 things at a time anyway, and looking at more than 3 things just drains my energy.

So I try to put the 2 or 3 most urgent and doable things from the weekly list on a post-it note for the day, and tack the post-it note in my paper daytimer or on the coffeemaker, computer screen, whatever. On a good day I will finish early in the day and enjoy a moment of triumph (and maybe a nap) before going back to look for something else to do. On a bad day the post-it note will still be there for the next day. And on a really bad or chaotic day I may forget to look at the daytimer at all.

Like bluejay I only keep actual appointments on my Google Calendar, but the daytimer (with post-it note) and small notebook ride in my briefcase when I go out. And yes, it sometimes happens that I fail to synchronize or write something down, but I just try to keep those times to a minimum, groan, and try again.

mctavish23
10-30-16, 10:50 PM
They work well for me.

Good Luck.

tc

mctavish23

(Robert)