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Why Creating A To-Do List Is Derailing Your Success

Source | FastCompany : By Stephanie Vozza

Nearly two-thirds of professionals write to-do lists, but 41% percent of all to-do list items never actually get done, according to research from the project-tracking software provider iDoneThis. In fact, more than half of people write things on their to-do list on the same day they do them.

While to-do lists are popular, they can derail your success, says Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. “Do you really think Richard Branson and Bill Gates write long to-do lists and prioritize items as A1, A2, B1, B2, and so on?” he asks. “To-do lists are where important tasks go to die.”

In his research on productivity and time-management best practices, Kruse interviewed more than 200 billionaires, Olympians, straight-A students, and entrepreneurs, asking for their best advice. “None of them ever mentioned a to-do list,” he says.

That’s because to-do lists tend to have three major problems, says Kruse:

1. They don’t account for time. When there is a long list of tasks, people tend to tackle those that can be completed quickly in a few minutes, leaving the longer items left undone, says Kruse.

2. They don’t distinguish between urgent and important. There are no time boundaries on to-do lists, and important things often get overlooked. “Our impulse is to fight the urgent and ignore the important,” he says.

3. They contribute to stress. Known as the Zeigarnik effect, people tend to remember incomplete tasks, and they lead to intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts. This list of undone things contributes to insomnia, says Kruse.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

Kruse found that most high achievers live and work from their calendar. The key to success is adopting three practices that turn your calendar into an effective blueprint for the day:

1. Time-block the most important things. Don’t let your calendar fill up randomly by accepting every request that comes your way, says Kruse.

“Get clear on your life and career priorities, and preschedule sacred time blocks for these items,” he says. For example, you might block off two hours each morning to work on a strategic plan or other project that moves you forward. Shut off email, put your phone on airplane mode, and focus on pure productiveness.

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