Want to Get More Stuff Done? Put Down Your To-Do List

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I’m convinced that a to-do list is a tool of the devil.  I mean, think about it. Have you ever noticed how they just keep growing? And eventually, you run out of the room so you have to start another one? And soon you have a to-do list of to-do lists. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my to-do list feels like I’m watching the creek rise. It gets higher and higher, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. 

Then, of course, there is always the first thing you want to put on your to-do list, and if you are a serious to-do lister then you know as well as I do that the first thing on the list is to actually make the list. 

And you make that the first thing on the list because we are all searching for the same thing; crossing it off. I mean, really – is there any better satisfaction than scratching something off the to-do list? It’s like euphoria or sunshine on a cloudy day. And since it doesn’t look like the Bengals are going to win the Super Bowl this year it is really my only source of entertainment. 

Here is the problem: To-do lists aren’t that productive. Sure, they are fun, but they aren’t the source of productivity that we all desperately want them to be. Actually, I would suggest that your to-do list is really just a tool of procrastination. 

Think about it; we write down what we have to do, so we can come back at a later time and eventually do it (then scratch it off – of course).   

A to-do list doesn’t deal with the number one problem that forced us to create the to-do list in the first place: I need to make time to get the project done! In that sense a to-do list is a lot like a mirror, it will tell you what you look like, but it won’t help you do anything about it. 

What I’m learning is that if I really want to get stuff done, rather than put it on the to-do list I must calendar the project. That’s right; set aside intentional time to finish what needs to happen. 

I don’t know about you, but I can negotiate with my to-do list and not see the implications. I can convince myself I’ll have time to get that task down later today, but the reality is I can negotiate with myself because I don’t see the cost. When I put the task on my calendar if I want to negotiate with myself I’m forced to re-calendar the task. 

When I put something on the calendar I am forced to do something with the event. I’m faced with the reality that productivity isn’t about doing a lot of stuff, but rather doing whatever stuff I choose in the time I have available. 

When I began to calendar things like checking email, or writing blogs, or reading books for seminary I started to experience something amazing – freedom. 


And don’t worry, if you still need to scratch something off the list just don’t put it on the to-do list till AFTER you have it on the calendar. 

Are you a to-do list junkie? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what it means to put down the list!