Why Your “To Do” List Is Holding You Back

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I’ve written extensively about the damaging effects of using to do lists. The problem with so many to do lists is that people tend to put things on them they can’t reasonably do. Typically they can’t do them because they are too big of a project (like “write book”) or because they can’t move forward until some 3rd party does something first. Most to do lists just end up being a dumping ground and either people feel a false sense of accomplishment because they “put it on their list” or they look at the list and that voice inside our heads that pushes us to complete the uncompleted (formally known as the Zeigarnik Effect) tells us to do all of these things, that we can’t actually do, and our brains basically put a moratorium on any form of productivity.

If you’re using a whiteboard as your to do list, stop reading right now, take picture, and erase it immediately. You’re guaranteeing you’ll never get those things done.

However, if you’re to do list looks like this, there’s hope…

and here’s why, while I don’t believe in to do lists, I do believe, very strongly, in DOING lists.

A DOING list is a place where you can put a task or project and have a clear path towards actually getting it completed. This is where Trello comes in. Trello allows you to put your tasks into an “assembly line” of sorts that follow a Kanban system (basically the Japanese version of lean manufacturing). You can use Trello to organize pretty much anything but if you use it for project management than you have projects that correspond to a board, each board has lists which represent phases (like To Do, Doing, Done, or Prospect, Lead, Customer for example), and each card is a task. Below is my DOING list.

Now the special thing is that I have an entire team attached to my board. Your team might consist of work colleagues, a spouse, contractors, or maybe a virtual assistant. Nothing sits without some action to it because these items are never static. They can move from one phase to another, even other boards if they become relevant to that project. You can always move a project forward because the pathways to do it are right there before you.

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