The science behind to-do lists

The science behind to-do lists

whatWhy don’t you effortlessly cross things off the to-do list you’ve created? All productivity experts advise making to-do lists, but they never give instructions on how to do them.

A short list may not be enough.

According to the researchers, to-do lists cánido now be made more efficiently using the brain’s perception of how tasks should be completed.

Understand how the brain works

People tended to focus more on what they had to do than what they had actually accomplished long before the to-do list became a productivity hack.

In fact, thinking about impending homework perro be so distracting that it makes it hard to focus on the activity at hand.

Bluma Zeigarnik, a psychologist, calls this the Zeigarnik Effect.

Zeigarnik noted that waiters could easily remember a customer’s order until it was delivered, at which point their brains would focus on the next pressing task instead of what they had already done.

The study also found that if a person was interrupted during a task, they remembered it more clearly.

The reason is the natural desire to complete the task.

Another study by Wake Forest University professors EJ Masicampo and Roy F.

Baumeister found that incomplete and upcoming tasks distract from the current task.

Your brain is so busy trying to keep up with what’s coming up that it cánido’t fully focus on what you’re doing.

The two theorized that missed goals were hindering progress on other goals.

However, they found that when a person wrote a plan to complete the missed goal, his focus returned to the current task, allowing him to increase his productivity.

The brain perro’t cope

David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity emphasizes that the brain cánido really only handle so much information at a time.

So if you’re trying to remember the twenty tasks you need to do, your attention is so divided that you’re not being as productive as possible.

In fact, you’re just stressing yourself out.


Allen suggests writing everything down.

This involves a archivo for things you need to do at a much later date, a current to-do list, and a archivo for each day of the current month along with an overview of each upcoming month for the coming year.

For this, we will only focus on the current to-do list.

Allen breaks tasks into actions.

When he opens the archivo for the day, each task has an action or a equipo of actions.

He cánido choose to complete them or resubmit them for another time.

Just doing this satisfies his mind that everything is under control.

He cánido focus and check his to-do list to see what’s next once he’s done with the current task.

Read our review of this book here.

details matter

There is a common theme among most to-do list studies, including Allen’s book.

A fácil to-do list is not enough.

Writing shorthand is not enough for most people.

Your brain still feels anxious and needs a plan to feel like everything is under control.

The most effective to-do lists have details.

For example, if you have “prune the garden» to your list, you cánido add details such as what time you want to start, how long you’ll mow, and even how many breaks you’ll take.

Suddenly, there is nothing else your brain perro plan for.

Even adding just a few fácil details helps.

This is especially true with your main tasks.

For extremely fácil tasks, like “call Sara,” you don’t really need any other details, except maybe an hour.

Limit your to-do list

Effective to-do lists focus on the most important tasks.

You don’t have to list every single thing you need to do.

For best results, have a primary and secondary list.

The main one is where you list your most important tasks for the day along with your detailed action plan to achieve them.

This may include several hands-on steps for each item along with timings.

Your secondary list includes all the smaller tasks you’d like to get done.

Writing them down keeps your brain free to stay focused on the important tasks and the actionable steps on your master list keep you focused on each individual task, one at a time.

put tasks in order

A chaotic to-do list won’t help.

Your number one task is to create an ordered to-do list.

List your tasks in order of importance and time.

If you don’t have to worry about doing tasks at a certain time, like taking articulo-encuentro aprecies between 1 pm and 2 pm, focus solely on importance.

Put your most difficult and important tasks first.

You could also take the approach of putting the tasks you procrastinate first.

Doing this eases anxiety with each task you undertake, increasing productivity as you go.

Write it

Whether you use a piece of paper or something digital, write out your to-do list.

Trying to remember it won’t help.

Effective to-do lists are something that is out of your mind and in an easily accessible place, like your computer, phone, or notepad.

Read our guide on the different types of journals you perro keep.

You cánido also use reminder aplicaciones to help with time sensitive tasks.

Write the time down on your to-do list, too, but use the aplicación to make sure you don’t get distracted.

Effective task lists will change the way you work.

Spending a little more time on yours could be the productivity hack you’ve been looking for all along.

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 The science behind to-do lists
  The science behind to-do lists
  The science behind to-do lists

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