5 Tips for Tackling Your To Do List

I used to love To Do lists when I was little. And, then I grew to hate them.

When I was young, To Do lists were the only way to manage my very inattentive, distractionist brain. But then, they became these nagging wishlists fraught with frustration, anxiety and overwhelm.

What do you feel like when you look at your To Do list of 7,10 or even 20 tasks?  Likely overwhelmed and stressed. Perhaps even worse than when you ambitiously created your list in the hopes of achieving some kind of organization and control in your life.  These lists serve as a reminder of what we HAVEN’T done. So I began avoiding them and that didn’t help either.

And then I read about an interesting psychological effect, called the Zeigarnik effect.  It’s the thought that failing to complete a task actually creates cognitive tension which requires greater mental effort.

We remember unfinished tasks better than completed ones.

So the unfinished tasks on your To-Do list occupy a lot of mental space, which makes it harder to concentrate fully on anything else until we complete those tasks.

But, creating a specific plan to complete a task at a later date allows us to experience fewer distracting thoughts about unfinished work.  Research has shown that we don’t even have to complete the task, we simply need to create a plan for it in order to decrease the stress associated with unfinished work.

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