You might swear by a pen-crafted, bullet-pointed list or use some extravagant combination of apps and online calendars, but when push comes to shove, whatever method works for you is the best method. Still, there’s nothing wrong with refining your approach to the humble to-do, especially if it results in squeezing more productivity out of your day.
Fast Company’s Rachel Gillett offers a few tips for improving your lists, the first being to consider whether your to-dos should be broken down into smaller tasks, lest you become negatively pre-occupied:
There’s actually a name for this: the Zeigarnick effect. The feeling of internal tension and preoccupation we experience when a task has not yet been completed was first observed in the 1920s by Russian psychologist Bulma Zeigarnik, who found it curious that waiters had an easier time remembering complicated orders before they filled them than after.
The solution to this anxiety is simply breaking down the project into smaller, actionable tasks and planning which one will be the next step toward completing the whole project.
It’s not complicated stuff, but if you’re finding that your not tackling your workload because it’s just “too much”, not only does it help to segment your tasks, it opens up the possibility of delegating those parts to others (if such an opportunity exists), or even realising you’ve stretched yourself too thin and avoiding a potential burnout.
The New Habit Challenge: Create a Better To-do List [Fast Company]