Why TO-DO Lists Are Bad For Time Management And What To Do Instead

Being able to manage our time effectively is arguably one of the best “superpowers” we can have. In fact, a recent study by IBM surveying more than 2 million professionals identified it as the second most important skill to master in this new era of work.

Let’s be clear. Time management is not an easy task. But I think the main problem behind the bad relationship with it is that you can’t see it more overall. We often consider it a linear and isolated variable, but in reality there are at least two other factors that have a serious impact on how we manage it. It’s ourselves and unpredictability.

Our mental and emotional state determines whether we succeed or are inadequate with our best intentions, as we all had the opportunity to experience it first hand. Moreover, we want life events to always be simple, but the reality is almost always not. As a result, what is needed to develop better time management is mental and emotional agility. Want to know what your best skills were in an IBM survey? Adaptability to change!

Problems to do

The reason for doing the list doesn't work

One of the biggest misconceptions about time management is believing that to-do lists do tricks for us. There is nothing more from the truth! The problem with the TO-DO list is that it doesn’t have a deadline because it doesn’t assign a deadline defined for each task. A time-conscious approach is one factor you are trying to master. It’s no wonder that research shows how bad it is to estimate how long it will take us to complete a task.

The second problem with the to-do list is that it doesn’t address one of the most important aspects of time management, prioritization.

Prioritization is an art, not a universal size, but a prerequisite for productivity. Science has shown that prioritization is one of the most difficult activities our brains perform. Therefore, having a clear methodology to get the most out of your time is a great asset to own.

At Eisenhower Matrix, you may be familiar with the idea of ​​classifying tasks into a 2×2 matrix at the level of urgency and importance. This is to identify and work on the ones that are most urgent and important. This may be a useful approach, but the problem is that it doesn’t take into account the mental and emotional relationships with these tasks. This inevitably affects effective abilities.

What to do instead

There are many great hacks out there, but the most important aspect of nurturing for better time management is self-awareness. It is professionally efficient to take the time to understand the most energetic times of the day, know what will be easier and what will be difficult, and what kind of work requires a different way of thinking. It is a necessary condition to work in.

Once these aspects are clarified, applying different hacks and techniques to increase productivity can actually be fruitful. One useful framework to keep in mind when thinking about time management is to think of it as a combination of task management and emotional and mental self-management.

Take your to-do list to the next level with four powerful tips

The reason for running the list doesn't work

  1. Focus on the timebox. This means that each task has a deadline. This increases accountability and accuracy. You may need to be careful at first, but over time, your predictions will become much better.
  2. Master time box. According to science, you can get the best results by using sprints. Each task should not exceed 60-90 minutes. This is about 5 during the task so that our brain’s energy is finite and the brain can regain its power and concentration in order to maintain sustainable productivity levels throughout the day. This is because you need to give a break of ~ 10 minutes.
  3. Rethink your prioritization. When doing this activity, make sure you are also participating in the equation. What does this mean? Consider your current energy level and how exciting or demanding your future activities are. Taking this holistic approach gives you the motivation and energy you need to power through, which not only makes you more effective, but also makes your day work smarter. If you don’t have the energy to think straight by noon, it doesn’t make sense to do all the most important and urgent activities first!
  4. Reverse engineer TO-DO. It’s important to know what you need to achieve in a day, but not listing is just as powerful. As we live in a world of constant distraction and temptation, it can be very helpful to list everything you need to avoid the obstacles to productivity and well-being.

Time management is an ever-evolving process that is closely linked to your evolution and personal growth. Please continue and enjoy the experiment. Learn about yourself that you never thought possible!

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Author: Philippo Direnald

Filippodi Lenardo, a passionate entrepreneur seeking to help people lead a more meaningful and expansive life, helps professionals achieve their personal and professional goals more effectively. Co-founder of 3SSENTIA, a management system. Filippo also runs Leap2yourbest (, a two-day coaching program for entrepreneurs who want to grow their personal and business growth.

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