to-do list, productivity, time management

To-Do Lists: Killing Your Productivity Daily

Ever been in a time-management seminar? Was their first recommendation making a list of everything you need to do in a day?

Or maybe you simply talked to one of your more-efficient friends and they recommended it?

Hell, even if you google productivity, you’re bound to get someone claiming to-do lists will magically fix your schedule (therefore, your life).

Whatever the case may be, to-do lists seem to be a popular recommendation for people seeking to become more productive.

I’m here to tell you why exactly they suck.

The Issue

1. Equating Tasks

While writing down everything you need to do on a given day is quite the accomplishment, and sometimes even a daunting task of itself, it does a terrible job of prioritizing things.

Even if you use a number system, putting the most important things higher on the list, the main issue still remains.

Level with me: should coming up with a marketing strategy and answering emails even be on the same list? Ever?

No matter what your prioritization method is, there are some things that just can’t be equated.

priorities, problem, issue

2. False Sense of Achievement

We’re all partially to blame for this one. A big part of the reason people enjoy to-do lists so much is the feeling they get when they check something off.

That feeling of pride is primal and also very false.

How many times have you found yourself putting things on your list just so you can check it off?

Should you be happy if you check off nine out of ten things off?

How about when the tenth thing is something major?

I’d have to go with a big NO, here.

false sense of achievement

3. No Time Management

Considering the fact that successful individuals swear by their to-do lists, it’s amazing to think that there’s no time management benefit in making one.

After all, it’s very rare to see someone put time estimates next to their tasks. This brings us back to problem number one, leading us to believe all tasks were created equal (same priority, same duration).

However, this is very often not true, which results us making lists that are too long and simply not feasible.

This, in turn, creates an environment of working under pressure, causing demotivation when we cannot accomplish everything we planned. It’s a vicious cycle. 

work under pressure, panic

The Solution

Overall, I am of the opinion that lists should be made for shopping and maybe reading plans. So: Throw your to-do list in the trash.

On a more serious note, there are ways you can improve your to-do list. Try these tips out and let me know how they worked for you:

  • Limit your list to 3 major tasks per day 
  • Write down estimates of how long each task takes
  • Limit your list to 9 tasks in total
  • Be honest with yourself
  • Adjust as you go.


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