Lists, everyone loves them; their desks are covered in them. They can give the impression of control; they help you maintain track of what you need to do and there is something very satisfying about crossing off the jobs you have done. Most people, from time management consultants to psychiatrists, recommend to-do lists if you want to keep on top of your life and your work. But, time management guru, Mark Forster, who has recently published a book, called, Secrets of Productive People, says that to-do lists are a waste of time and the best thing to do with them, is to throw them away.
Forster says that any feeling of control is an illusion and that people write down objectives without thinking, without giving any thought as to whether it is important or necessary. He says: “An ever-expanding list refers to a never-never land where you magically get time to do all this work.” He also says that a list is out of date the moment you start it; it is just a record of “what you might have done at a point of time which is also receding into the past”, regardless of what is possible or important to do now.
Some people would never even consider making a list and just get on with what they have to do, but for list addicts, Forster suggests an alternative idea. He says you should write down only the five most important tasks on your mind, then do them in order, crossing them off as you go and if you don’t complete one, add it to the bottom again. If you get down to two, add another three, so you you always have five. Genius; isn’t that what everyone does anyway?
Forster claims that his minimalist approach means you are only needed to work out what really needs doing, saying that on a conventional list, there are unlimited slots and this can lead to wasting time doing things that are inessential, just to get the satisfaction of crossing tasks off. If you miss writing something crucial down, Forster says it probably didn’t matter anyway.
His views are simplistic and can lead to people just writing down five easy to achieve tasks, so his methodology can easily lead to forgetting something vital. That said; what you can write down on your lists is infinite, but your time is finite, so following Forster’s methods, sensibly and honestly may have its upsides. It is probably worthwhile giving Forster’s ideas a go; stick his idea at the top of a list right now.