Making The Most Of Your To-Do List
March 17, 2022
Over the years, several tools have been created to help individuals manage their ever-growing list of things to do such as Walter Chen and Rodrigo Guzman’s productivity tool called IDoneThis. Instead of writing tasks down, it was for tracking things already accomplished.

It served as a psychological hack that motivated and inspired its users.

But when users asked for and received a feature that served as a traditional to-do list, the app's popularity decreased. As busy professionals, who have all utilized to-lists, we can glean from the trajectory of Chen and Guzman’s productivity tool why to-do lists work, why they often don't work and how to get the most out of them.

Why to-do lists work: Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik studied a unique quirk of the mind and found that when a task is unfinished, humans constantly think about it to keep it from vanishing from our short-term memory. It is known as the Zeigarnik effect. To-do lists help us avoid the Zeigarnik effect by allowing us to focus on other things without our outstanding obligations breaking our concentration.

Why to-do lists don't work: Just because we got the task out of our head and onto paper doesn't mean it gets done. If there is no plan or timeline for completion, the to-do list grows and becomes a daunting assignment for your future self to complete.

How to get the most out of your list: One helpful approach is to add a plan for how you will execute the tasks on your list and only add items that can be completed in a timely manner. Otherwise, your to-do list becomes an ever-growing list of shame that is both daunting and demotivating.



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