List-making and to-do lists are a great way to keep track of what you have going on in your day. However, over at the Wall Street Journal, Dan Ariely suggests that they're not as useful as some of us might think.
Photo by Juhan Sonin.
While to-do lists are great for tracking items that need completed, Ariely's argument is that it's certainly possible to overdo them:
On the irrational side, making lists and checking items off them gives us the false sense that we are actually making progress. The fancy term for this is "structured procrastination." It is an attempt to capture the feeling that we are making progress even when, at the end of the day, we look back at what we achieved and see that we did not get much done. I also suspect that all the apps for making lists more fun to use are further reducing our productivity by replacing real work and focus with structured procrastination.
We've talked about how structured procrastination works before, but Ariely's point is more that we use to-do lists to create a false sense of accomplishment too often. It's hard to say whether "fun" to-do lists really have that negative of an impact on procrastination or productivity, but it's an interesting argument nonetheless.
To Do: Ignore All Those To-Do Lists [The Wall Street Journal]