Why You Should Scrap Your To-Do Lists

28/09/2016 10:32 BST | Updated 28/09/2017 10:12 BST

The whole premise behind To-Do lists is flawed. The focus is on managing time and tasks. The consequence of this is that people get stressed about not getting all their things done and end up in a 'doing, doing, doing' mode that typically leads to nowhere.

Success in life and in business is about having a sense of purpose. It's about focusing on results management instead of time management. In short, what people need instead of To-Do lists is To-Achieve lists.

Here are the four keys to coming up with To-Achieve lists.

Step back and start by asking two simple questions

One of the major problems when it comes to productivity and to-do lists is that people ask the wrong questions. They don't do this consciously, but it happens at a subconscious level and is a long established habit. And so as a consequence, what they end up very often doing is spending their time meeting the demands of other people and carrying out tasks based on their fears rather than their desires. The two simple questions to ask are as follows.

  • What do I really want? In other words, what is the end result I am looking for?
  • Why is that end result important to me? In other words, what is the reason for wanting to achieve that end result? When we are unmotivated, it's easier for us to become distracted.

So this is about results and reasons. The beauty of starting the process with these two questions is that, by knowing what you want and why you want it, the actions needed to achieve the result become more obvious. Also, because you are now clearer on your purpose, you have the energy and motivation to take the actions needed.

Focus is power

To understand this point, let's look at how a laser works. The difference between a laser beam and an ordinary light can be likened to the difference between ripples on a lake and huge waves in the sea. At a basic level they are the same, but waves have more power and that power comes from the energy being added by the wind. A laser beam is basically a weak light where more and more energy has been added so that the light waves become concentrated. So when you focus your attention on achieving an end result and add in more energy, your actions become more powerful.

Crystal clear clarity

The human brain is like a heat seeking missile in that it can figure out how to hit a target when it knows precisely what the target is. Often, however, we are vague and undecided about the targets we are shooting for. A heat seeking missile constantly monitors the whereabouts of the target with a tracking system and adjusts its speed and altitude constantly until it catches up with and hits its target. Our brains can do something similar, but only if they know precisely what the target is.

Celebrate your achievements

Very often what people do when they complete a task is to forget about it and to hurriedly move onto the next task. There is no joy in that way of operating. We need to feel a sense of reward and, when we do, what the brain does is to release a feel-good chemical called dopamine. We feel more like a winner and this gives us the motivation and the energy to complete the next task. So every time you tick off an end result achieved, congratulate yourself.