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  • Writer's pictureJonda Beattie

Why To-Do Lists Fail

When I give Time Management presentations I always hear someone say, “I can never get through my to-do lists!” Well, of course not. Most of us have multiple lists- way too many lists- on slips of paper, in tablets, in the car, in our purses….. We have an idea of something we need to do and we make a note of it but our notes often never get consolidated. We may have six items on the list and do two of them. Now we have a list with four items left to do. And these lists are often not where we can find them when we want them. They get buried on our desk, in our purse, on the kitchen counter, by our bedside… The lists may just have items on them like- store (go to the store? which store? store something?), laundry ( sort? wash? dry? put away?), car (check insurance? wash? take to shop?). For a list to work it should have an action verb with each item and the first action should be the one that is listed. If my car needs a tune up then my first action would be to call the repair shop and set up an appointment. A to-do list is just some ideas unless we commit when we plan to do the action. So my list should read, “Call the car repair shop Monday and set appointment for next week.” Then that item from my list should go on my calendar. On Monday I should have a note that states,”Call car shop” in my calendar. Now I have a commitment. Many of us have running lists of things that need to be done. You know you can’t do them all in one day, so look over that list and pick the top three. Commit to do those today. Find any other high priorities and determine when you will plan to do them. Put those items on your calendar on that day. Keep a separate “wish list” of those items you would like to do someday when you get the time but that are not a high priority. Review that list on a regular basis and pull one out when the mood strikes you and move it to your calendar. At the end of the day, instead of bemoaning what didn’t get done on your list, congratulate yourself for the things you did do. Hopefully, you got the big three priorities off the list or at least started.

Jonda S. BeattieProfessional Organizer

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