A recent article in Inc. Magazine caught my eye. Science Says Add Just 1 Element to Your To-Do List to ‘Remarkably’ Improve Your Success Rate
Just one element? Well, yes, although it’s maybe a wee bit more complicated than that. Yet, it is a simple idea, and easy enough to try out for a little while to see if it helps us get where we want to go.
For those of us in the habit of creating To-Do lists regularly, the answer really is as simple as answering “Why?” Further, its effectiveness has been proven by scientific research. Impressive!
The key is that making To-Do lists is a form of setting goals. We To-Do listers know that we make our lists specifically to do that – with a primary goal of being able to cross all those items off our lists, marking them as complete.
According to the scientists (and the author, Jeff) – if we add one extra element to our lists, it will improve our chances of completing them. And that one extra element is to answer the question “why.”
OK – at first, I read that. It struck me as very broad. And honestly, if the first item on my To-Do list is “make up my To-Do list” (just so I can cross it off when I’m finished!) then honestly, I don’t need to append a reason to it. So here I add my own spin to the suggestion in hopes of helping you make it work for you, too.
There Are To-Do lists, and Then There are TO-DO Lists
I happen to keep several different lists with different kinds of items. Some are about goals. Others are about tasks. There are short-term items (these must be completed today!) — vs — long-term (this is what I hope to finish in the next few weeks, or months, or this is what I need to do before I retire.) Another list is about wishes more than needs. “I wish I could lose a few pounds” is a very different goal from “I need to lose weight so I don’t develop diabetes” even if the endpoint is the same.
The author of the Inc. article, Jeff, makes another distinction which is important, too. He talks about those items that keep getting moved from list to list because they never quite get completed. We keep kicking that can (To-Do item) down the road because we dislike doing, or are bored by, or don’t see the point of doing it, or ? They might be tasks, or they can be goals, but there is some barrier in the way of completion.
In other words – not all To-Do items are created equal.
Here’s Where “Why” Comes In
For those items that you’ve been putting off, for whatever reason, then (according to the researchers) just adding the “why” will encourage you to get them done. You are more likely to complete them, and then you’ll be able to cross them off your list.
Here are some examples:
This list is a mishmash of tasks, but you can see that the highlighted ones are the ones that seem a bit more daunting, or a bit more time consuming, or even just a bit harder to accomplish.
However, I’ve added the why – what they will do to move my practice forward. And you know what? Yes – those are two things I know will help me become more successful, and do a better job serving my clients. I’ve cemented the forward, proactive thinking in my head – and now I’m ready to tackle them both. (AND cross them off my list!)
Give “the why” a try, in particular for those tasks you’ve put off for whatever reason. It can’t hurt, it can certainly help, and you might find yourself crossing some of those more challenging tasks and goals off your list – as completed!
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