Are "To Do Lists" a Waste of Time?

I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for a To Do List. My obsession with these things is such that I often have a To Do List within a To Do List, and at least 3 To Do Lists on the go at once



I've been on countless training courses that say a To Do List is a complete waste of time. I've even given the list its own abbreviation - TDL - because I use it so much.

It's a well-known fact that more people waste time writing up TDLs than they do completing the tasks on them. That I can well believe. If I've got an urgent piece of work to churn out, I'll delay it by typing up a new TDL - adding this new piece of work to it. Then once it's done, I'll retype the list, removing that item. Totally nuts.

Creating a monster

I know that it is an affliction, but I feel totally lost without one. I have one on my phone, 3 in my office, and I've got chalkboards and white boards scattered throughout the house.

The weird thing is, no-one else in the house seems aware of their existence. Not once has my husband read one of my lists and said "Do you want me to contact the plumbers for you?" In fact, I doubt he even notices them, which leads me to the conclusion that a TDL is yours and yours alone. You created the monster, ergo you are responsible for it.

A family To Do List?

What if I tried an experiment at home? I could introduce a Sunday afternoon TDL slot and get the whole family involved (we know how to have fun in our house). I could get the two boys and the husband writing up a TDL each.

Of course, I'll have to dictate what goes on them, otherwise my youngest's list will just say "Watch TV," "Play on iPad," "Have a poo". In fact, that won't be much different to my husband's.

Then we will have a competition to see who can get through their TDL quickest. I know my eldest will be good at this. He's like a machine; you just programme in what he has to do and within a matter of minutes he's done it.

With the youngest we'll be lucky enough if he actually finishes writing up the list before he's distracted by something... anything. And as for the husband, he will leave all the actions to the last minute. Then delegate them to me to do anyway.

Break the habit

I would love to go cold turkey and see if I could live without a TDL. I think I'd end up being sectioned though, as just the thought of not having a list makes me feel anxious.

What if I forget to shop for food? Seriously, what's the worst that can happen? My husband might lose a few pounds. Win-win. It's not as if the world is going to end because I've forgotten to action a task.

To put it into perspective, imagine the TDLs of the current world leaders:

  • Cure Ebola
  • Defeat ISIS
  • Stop Climate Change
  • Fix Energy Crisis
  • Improve Healthcare.

In the grander scheme of things, my "To Dos" are pretty insignificant and probably don't warrant being the subject of endless lists. I think it's time to break the habit.

Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director

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