Your brain is the greatest processor in the world. And it’s got passable short-term information retention. But it really sucks at mass, long-term data storage.
If you keep and maintain a good to-do list, you’ll not only get more stuff done, you’ll feel less stressed about the stuff that you haven’t gotten to yet.
Dustin Wax has written a great article giving some to-do list advice that’s right on target.
Todo lists are important because every unfinished task you’ve made a commitment to causes stress. What’s more, your brain knows its own limits, so as you add more and more unfinished tasks, your brain starts thinking that some of them aren’t going to get finished – causing even more stress.
That’s why it feels so good to write that task list – your brain lets out a sigh of relief, knowing that now, at least, it doesn’t have to try to keep track of all that stuff. Your brain doesn’t want to be remembering all the things you haven’t done. It wants to be doing them, so it can feel good about itself. The neurology of all this is a bit more complicated, but that’s the basic idea.
About five years ago, this simple notion of keeping a good to-do list changed my life for the better. It was the most stand-out concept that I gleaned from David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
But you don’t need to jump all the way into GTD in order to get the benefits of a good list. Just follow the advice of Mr. Wax, and your life will improve. Or better yet, convert to the cult of GTD.