When looking at how to increase productivity, it should be noted there are as many good processes as there are people. Those considering changing up how they get things done might be relieved to know that despite its widespread use, the classic ‘to-do’ list is not the best way for everyone. Feeling that the list will never be done, or that one is incapable of doing it can result in negative thinking patterns that ultimately reduce productivity. If you are one of the many who finds this manner of organising your work day stressful, you may want to tweak the method, or replace it entirely.
“Positive Mental Imagery” Alternative
San Francisco State University put the ubiquitous ‘to-do list’ to the test by comparing it with a technique they called ‘mental imagery’. According to James Adonis at the Sydney Morning Herald, this is a “combination of goal-setting, relaxation techniques and positive self talk”. Apparently, well over half of the 214 participants in the study preferred the latter method after a two week trial. They reported less stress about what needed to be done, and a more encouraged mental attitude towards their many tasks. Using positive mental imagery, one participant stated they “Kept up spirits in the face of adversity.” Sounds like a success story in the making.
Making the Most of It
There are times when a to-do list can be a helpful memory jolt, and useful in planning effective time management. Being able to see what is on your plate is one way to start working through it. However, the list made up of tasks that are added when they come to mind is unlikely to be the best way to go about it. Time management experts suggest dividing the list into at least two columns: one to be done today, and one for ongoing tasks. Alternatively, creating a list of “do-not-do” items might be the ticket to success. Productivity expert Laura Stack suggests being firm about not using social media during work time, not spending time gossiping or complaining, and not procrastinating are some of the ways we can get more done.
Another task listing method that gets positive results is the “done” list, where tasks are written down as they are completed, offering the listee feelings of satisfaction and encouragement. This way does not help plan a day’s work in the same way a to-do list can, but could be more useful for keeping a positive mental attitude. Coupled with alternative means of organising time, the “done” list can be quite effective.
Many Roads to Success
If you are experiencing doubt about your current methods of getting things done, it is a good idea to try some different ways. There is no one way for everyone, and many people find switching things up from time to time beneficial as well. Particularly if you are dissatisfied with your to-do list, it is worthwhile experimenting with different ways.