To-do list nonsense

“I do not do to-do lists anymore … they only accumulate an infinite amount of items and that adds stress …”

Manton Reece – Founder of Micro.blog

I agree.

I think to-do lists can create a false sense of security, or stress, or both.  Yes, writing things down is a necessary step to keep a clean psyche – but not enough.

Why? Because a to-do list is a ‘database’. If you feed it, it will grow. The to-do list becomes another inbox.

So, no to-do list?

After researching and talking to people about their habits this is my personal takeaway on the subject.

  1. Lists are great for things that are not to-dos. For example, I maintain a list “Movies and books”. Right now it contains 102 entries. If you recommended a book or movie to me, it is here in this list (along with your name).
  2. Lists are ‘just ok’ to keep a list of actions. Some people I talked to have declared a ‘to-do’ list bankruptcy and started over. Again, this supports the idea that the regular to-do list can become just another an inbox.
  3. The most effective use for a long list with actions is simply to let it be a source of inspiration. I use this list to create a weekly-ish inventory of things to focus on. Once I have decided what things to focus on, I ditch the big to-do list. That is, until the next planning cycle. This is akin to the Kanban principle of limiting the inventory of work in progress (WIP.)

No, I do not work from a to-do list. I focus on the recurrent execution of a short-term, small, mindfully curated, and digestible set of actions.