The Daily Struggle to Conquer Your To Do Lists
Many articles circulate around the web and in magazines on how you can become more effective. This doesn't surprise at all in our productivity-driven society and it shouldn't come to your surprise that articles dealing with this topic are pretty popular. I've read so many time management and self-help books that I can call myself a self-help addict.
Usually, people were addicted to smoking, drugs, and drinking, but not me. I needed a book in this category to make me feel better for a while and when the kick blurred away a new book had to be read. Most of the time, the good advice on the book, never achieved to break through my real life long enough to make a difference.
I got to a point where I created a plan which I follow and you can read about it in this post on how I have set it up. Its compiled of simple to do lists taking place on my bullet journal. This journal tracks my present and future goals. The good thing when you keep your thoughts in writing is that you can come back to reread your entries. I've done this with my bullet journal entries and observed my checked tasks to lag behind my undone tasks. Doesn't this mean I failed at achieving my goals miserably?
Yes. That was my initial thought. This concept of a plan makes a good impression but isn't bulletproof. I advertise it as the best way to create a better life for yourself and still, it does neglect a significant detail every plan or to do list misses.
I've written journals for many years and my task success rate never was greater than 50 percent. Over the years I tried to learn new things out by reading books gaining wisdom and become a master in effective/efficient productivity. Procrastination was my biggest enemy and I lost repeatedly one battle after another. Tomorrow would be better, seems though that tomorrow never arrives.
Take this blog post for example. It shouldn't take me more than 2 days to write, edit and publish this post on my website, yet I managed to put it behind some other tasks. Commenting on a basketball fan site about my favorite team was more important. I felt changes on my fantasy basketball team deserved a greater priority, followed by planning my next weekend trip and checking my emails every half an hour.
I know, I feel bad. When I had everything done and slapped myself for not watching the last episode of THE ORIGINALS, I finally made myself available to write this post. But then again I stopped in the middle of it. My brain constantly reminded me of actual other important work I had to do because I suppose this post was important to me and a relation had been made in my mind to the other tasks without my knowing.
Things became really odd when I started to talk to other people, who faced the same issue with getting things done. Many of them wrote lists but never touched them again, some wrote tasks down and completed the less demanding. That was the moment I realized, I wasn't alone, but had a great company of people going through the same grind. I made a general observation those days. We are bad at getting things done, but like to write to-do list's for some weird reason.
This made me search for studies, to gain a more scientific view of why this is happening. After long browsing, I discovered a study made by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik.
The Zeigarnik effect after what this phenomenon has been called since the study, states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. This means for you, by writing down your to do's on a list, you unconsciously confirm to your mind that something has been completed. What you are achieving with your written list, is to clear your mind from constant reminders of your own mind that something has to be completed. You unclutter things around you, without doing anything then writing the tasks down. This is like magic. No wonder we love to do lists.
Further studies by Baumeister and E.J. Masicampo deepened the belief. Your lists are targeting more your unconscious, than your conscious logic. This also explains why it is so easy to deal with the short tasks of your list. The barrier of unconscious confirmation from the actual action is low enough, to motivate you, to spend a few moments on this task.
People who said, "When you want to achieve a big goal in your life, split it into many smaller steps" were absolutely right with their wisdom. A big goal written on a piece of paper or computer file will never get your true attention. The same goal, divided into much smaller tasks, will not only help you to start but will increase your success rate of reaching that goal considerably.
Does this mean, you shouldn't write down your big goals? No, as said, it does good to your mental health, it decreases measurably your stress levels and you create a reference for yourself to hold you accountable for in future. To do lists have rightly claimed a bright spot in your heart. They serve a purpose and you shouldn't abandon this habit.
What you should do, is looking at your lists with the knowledge that written down big goals will act only as a reference to you and the goals which require a minimal effort on your side will grab your attention and get accomplished. Now that you know the secret, you can play with your lists and form your life with more power in your hands.
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