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Dump Your To-Do List

We were taught to keep a running list of things To-Do by writing line after line of tasks and reminders. It’s a helpful way to capture tasks, but not the most effective way to track and complete projects.

Lists become endless as you add more and more to them in your effort to track what you need to attend to, even if you continually prioritize what you’ve noted.

The feelings evoked by a traditional To-Do list divides us into the List Lover and the List Avoider.

To-Do List Lover

* Benefits: Enjoys writing every task on a list, including completed ones, because it feels good to cross them off. (Come on, admit it, it does!)

* Faults: Rewriting fatigue interferes with actually completing the items on the list. The lists look great after each edit, which takes time, and that’s often the end of the story.

To-Do List Avoider

* Benefits: Resists tracking tasks because they feel like insistent demands, saving time in the short term. (Read That Won't Work For Me.)

* Faults: Avoiders stress a lot because they try to rely on their superhuman memory. (Can you say self-sabotage?)

Whether a Lover or an Avoider, here are five tips both can use to improve the faults and enhance the benefits of the traditional list.

1 Rename, reframe, revisit

Make your list more inviting by changing the name from To-Do list to something that invites you to use it, like Vision Plan, Strategy Map, Success Plot, Brain on Paper, Mastery Path, or whatever speaks to you. Both List Lovers and List Avoiders benefit when reminded of what needs attention and due dates, so feeling comfortable with a list type that you’ll actually use is essential.

2 Focus on the goal

The advantage to the traditional list is that important items are corralled in one place, releasing your memory to focus on more enjoyable things, like revisiting the fulfilling vacation you had last year or recalling the taste of a sweet summer peach. By jotting down notes, you’ll capture what you need and want to do. Otherwise, you’ll forget what you need to do and waste time and money on unmet deadlines. ($39 credit card late fees hurt.)

But even the List Lover must acknowledge the disadvantages.

In the line-by-line format, we tax our brainpower by continually scanning the list and juggling each item in mind while dividing them into priority value. Oy vey!

The list becomes part of the problem, which Avoiders are quick to point out.

Instead of a list, group tasks into project buckets. Focus on the goal, which is the point of your efforts.

· Home: Dressing Area Improvement

· Work: Professional Education

· Community: Cleanup Efforts

· Personal: Tax Dispute

Combine each goal with a positive emotion-focused statement, such as, “I’ll feel more confident when the dressing room project is complete because I’ll be able to dress quickly and more professionally for work when I can find shoes that match.”

If you enjoy wordplay, Dressing Area Improvement becomes Wow at Work and eases the embarrassment of arriving in shoes of different colors.