To do lists are a MUST if you are you feeling scattered, frazzled or overwhelmed in your business!
Does it feel like there are never enough hours in your day?
Do you wish there was a way to make your daily tasks a little more manageable and a lot less stressful?
The good news is that there’s a very simple tool that can do all of these things and more. This post will explain exactly why to do lists are the key to a happier, more organized life and greater personal freedom.
I’ll also share some of my favorite tools for creating to do lists on your phone or computer, so you can access your lists anytime, anywhere.
3 Ways To Do Lists = Greater Freedom
There are tons of benefits to using to do lists – increased productivity being at the top of the list. However, I believe there are three main ways they also lead to greater personal and professional freedom.
1. Writing down a task helps remove it from your mind
Do you ever wake up in the night with all your unfinished tasks running through your head? Do you tend to focus on those incomplete tasks, rather than on all the ones you DID complete?
This is known as the Zeigarnik effect – our tendency to remember tasks we left unfinished and forget about ones we completed.
This phenomenon was first recognized when a psychologist noticed the ability of waiters to remember orders that weren’t yet paid for….and to quickly forget them once the bill was paid.
You may have also noticed this phenomenon when you were a student studying for a big test: you crammed as much information as you could into your brain before the test…and then once the test was done you promptly dumped everything you just learned! Sound familiar?
While it’s obviously impossible to complete every task without interruption, writing down your unfinished tasks can help move them from your mind onto paper – tricking your mind into treating them as finished tasks.
This will free you up to focus on other, much more enjoyable things (you know, like sleep!).
2. Writing down tasks can help alleviate stress and anxiety
Did you ever have a journal or diary as a child? It felt good to share all your deepest, darkest secrets, right?
Believe it or not, journaling is a proven strategy for managing anxiety and stress – even for adults.
If you think of to do lists as a form of journaling (getting stuff out of your head and onto paper), it’s easy to see why they would help reduce anxiety.
Instead of ruminating on all the tasks you need to complete, you can put them down in black and white, giving them a “voice”. Writing them down also allows you to prioritize them; so instead of constantly stressing out over what you should be doing next, you know exactly what needs to be done, and by when.
3. To do lists free you up to do the things you actually want to do
I think many people have this sense that to do lists are too restrictive, or that they can somehow make you feel more overwhelmed. However, in my experience, the opposite is actually true.
It’s true that writing down your tasks can at first feel overwhelming. Looking at a long list of incomplete tasks can definitely be a bit disconcerting!
But as you start crossing items off your list, you’ll find you start to feel a little bit lighter and a little bit freer.
And as you see your list items being whittled away, you’ll start to feel more freedom (and less guilt!) about calling it a day, and doing the things you really want to do.
5 Tools For Creating An Effective To Do List
There’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned paper list…however to do apps can really take things to the next level.
With features like automatic reminders, calendar integration and the ability to share your lists with colleagues or family members, I highly recommend using one of these apps to “to do” your way to greater freedom!
Things is a powerful to do app that’s been around for almost 10 years – which is an eternity in the software business.
Some of the best features: the “magic plus button”, which you simply press to add a new to do; the ability to assign tasks to “today” or “this evening”; circle completion icons so you can see exactly how close you are to completing a particular task.
My only criticism? It’s only available for iOS. So if you don’t have a Mac device, you’re out of luck on this one!
Price: $9.99 one-time fee
If you’re looking for a to do app with a super-simple, clean interface, you’ll love Any.do. One of my favorite features of Any.do is Moments, which basically gives you a preview of everything you still have to do. You can then either choose a time to complete each item (today), or reschedule them for another day.
Some of its other best features: Location-based reminders; the any do assistant that actually helps you complete your tasks; integrated calendar.
Price: Free for the basic version, $2.09/month (billed annually) to upgrade one device.
Todoist is a highly-rated to do app that does everything you’d expect and more. It’s the top pick over at PCmag.com and consistently receives high ratings on Google Play and the App Store.
Some of the best features: The ability to break down tasks into sub-tasks and sub-projects; color coded priority levels; recurring dates; collaboration options; integration with Siri.
Price: The basic version is free, and the premium version is $38.99/year.
This is an easy-to-use app that is probably best suited for personal (not business) use.
Enter tasks, synchronize between devices, receive reminders…it’s got all the basics. I also love that the pro version gives you the ability to create subtasks – for example, instead of just having an item called “Go to store”, you can break that tasks down into more concrete, specific tasks (e.g., list individual grocery items).
Another great feature is the ability to search for specific tasks using Smart Lists. Using almost 50 search operators, you can ask the app to find or sort tasks in any number of ways (for instance, “Find tasks I’ve already postponed twice”.
Price: The basic version is free, and if you want to upgrade to the pro version, it’ll cost you $39.99/year.
Looking for a no-nonsense app that simply lets you get your stuff done more easily? With the tagline, “fewer functions, more productive”, MinimalList might be just what you’re looking for.
Some of the best features: Simple, clean design; the “Today” widget which lets you create tasks just for the current day; built-in Pomodoro timer for increased productivity. It’s also the cheapest option on this list.
Price: Free for basic version, $4.99 for one year, or $7.99 for a lifetime membership.
If you’re struggling with feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, keeping a to do list may be just what you need to calm down, get focused and experience a greater sense of freedom.
If you’re on the fence about using to do lists, try downloading one of the apps above and give it a try for a few days. You may just be surprised at how much you get done, and how much freer you feel!
Do you use a to do list? Do you prefer good old pen and paper lists, or do you use a to do app? Share below!