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Is a to-do list killing productivity?

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in Admins,Office Management

To-do lists have always been a go-to tool for staying on track and being productive, but Caren Merrick challenges that idea in her The Muse article, writing that constructing your lists in a certain way can kill your productivity. Merrick says your productivity may be lacking if your list falls into one or more of these categories:

  • The list makes time for energy drainers. Energy drainers are people who pawn their tasks onto you, even if the task’s completion has no benefit to you. The solution is simple—politely let your co-worker know you are working on other tasks that are of higher importance and with stricter time constraints.   
  • Items are unclear. Vague or multistep to-dos that aren’t actionable slow down your productivity. To solve this problem, include details in your list. Use clear phrases and break down larger tasks to clarify your list.
  • Your to-dos are too long. When you add too many tasks to your list, it will become cluttered, daunting and impossible to finish. Instead of adding everything to your list, only put down your most important tasks. To determine what’s the most important, stick to tasks that need to be finished to move a project along or that will take the most time.
  • You don’t schedule breaks. Every­­one wants to believe they are superman and can handle a nonstop workday, but that’s only fantasy. The solution is to schedule breaks. For every 50-90 minutes of work time, take a break—this will let you recharge and stay energized.
  • You don’t allow buffer time. Life is full of unexpected moments, whether an urgent meeting, an important email or a chatty co-worker. These moments can get you off-track. To make sure you can get everything done, allow time where you have nothing planned. This will let you either continue your scheduled tasks or use that time as a buffer for the unexpected.

— Adapted from “5 Reasons Your To-Do List Is Making You Less Productive,” Caren Merrick, The Muse.

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