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Much Ado About a To Do List

In personal finance, in our careers, and in life it pays to be organized and efficient. There are many different ways to get organized and to improve efficiency, from software applications to apps for your smart phone and tablet, but to me the very best organizational and efficiency promoting tool is the good old fashioned to do list.

While I could certainly use a software based solution such as Microsoft OneNote, Remember the Milk (which I love just for the name!), Wunderlist, Producteev, or Google Tasks I personally find that a sheet of paper and a pen works just as well, if not better.

No matter how you do it though, a to do list is the thing to do if you want to be more productive and efficient as well as cutting down on procrastination. There’s something about those tasks staring back at you from the sheet of paper of screen that just screams “Take care of me now! You know you can’t sleep tonight if you don’t!” and so you do.

During my corporate years I used to do lists maniacally and they definitely helped me to stay on top of multiple projects, deadlines and obligations. For some reason I got away from using them once I became self employed. Maybe in my brain they were linked with the corporate world and I wanted to distance myself as much as possible. I can’t say for sure, but I can say that once I rediscovered the to do list my productivity shot up and my procrastination has dropped to an all time low. Ok, maybe not all time, but it’s pretty darn low.

The beauty of a to do list is that it does exactly what it says…tells you what you need to do.

And for many of us we need that to organize our days and to push us to achieve more than we would otherwise. For me personally, if it’s on my to do list I know it will get done, otherwise it is open to procrastination. That’s no way to work.

The to do list has other benefits as well. It allows you to prioritize tasks, which can be a godsend for those who get frozen by the thought of having so many things on their plates. Prioritization also means the most important tasks get done first, even if they are the ones you don’t really want to do.

One further benefit that I really appreciate is the ability to use a to do list to break larger tasks down into smaller chunks. My personality is such that I like to finish the things that I start. Great for short tasks, not very good at all for longer term projects. Without my to do list if I have something that will take 6 hours to complete it might take me weeks to get a 6 hour block of time to complete the task. With my to do list I can schedule 30 or 60 minute sessions to complete the task. I know it sounds crazy, but without the to do list I won’t start that task unless I have enough time to finish it in one sitting. With the to do list I am more willing to do the task in bits and pieces.

So, that’s why I make much ado of the to do list. I helps me to organize, prioritize, un-procrastinate and be more efficient in general. Maybe you can keep track of everything and get it done efficiently without the to do list, but I sure can’t.

What other great uses are there for to do lists that I forgot to mention?

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