Did you know that a ToDo list, while better than nothing can have a negative effect on your happiness and productivity?
Here’s the reasons why;
The Zeigarnik effect
The subconscious mind has a tendency to remind us of a task that is incomplete until that task is complete. This is commonly referred to as the Zeigarnik effect
Bluma Zeigarnik was a Lithuanian Psychologist who wrote about the effect in the 1920s. Some accounts say that she noticed the effect when watching waiters serve in a restaurant. Waiters would remember an order however complicated until the order was complete, they would later find it difficult to remember the order. Zeigarnik did further studies giving both adults and children puzzles to complete then interrupting them during some of the tasks. The results showed that both adults and children remember the tasks that hadn’t been completed better than the ones that had been completed.
For this reason ToDo lists and happiness may not be compatible. With a never ending ToDo list there is never any feeling of completion and you may forever feel dissatisfied with with your level of achievement.
Enter Workflow Management
The way to take control of this phenomenon is to have a workflow management system that allows you to capture the work that you need to do, organise and prioritise it and schedule it to be done later. By doing this you are making upfront decisions on what needs to be done rather than leaving things lying on a list until you have the time or the inclination to complete them. What does this workflow management system consist of?
A Task Management System
Task management is the ToDo List 2.0. It’s the next phase in capturing the work that needs to be done. It takes the work to do and categorises it. Most task management programmes will also allow you to prioritise tasks.
Benefits of Task Management
When you have captured and planned the work that needs to get done your brain no longer has to carry this incomplete task in your short term memory.
• Work is captured
• Clarity on how much work is involved.
• Easier to review progress and workload
• Improves motivation by visualising progress
• Breaks down larger projects into manageable tasks.
• No time wasted deciding what to do, your list is ready when you are
Choosing your Task Management App
There are many task management tools on the market with new ones appearing daily. I am currently using. I currently use Todoist and Evernote to keep me productive. There are many powerful apps that can keep you on the straight and narrow, the key is to choose one and stick with it. Many people jump from app to app thinking the app is failing them when in fact it is probably lack of commitment that is letting them down.
Scheduling the work
But having a task management system is not the complete answer, your calendar is an essential part of the system. Most people use their calendar in some shape or form but few use it to its maximum potential. Scheduling all the work that you need to do helps you to prioritise your work and empowers you to rank your work higher than the work of others. When you have a visual impression of what you need to do and an idea of how long it is going to take you, you will feel more in control of your day and you won’t have to carry the responsibility of your ToDo list in your head.
Using the Zeigarnik Effect to your benefit
So you see there is a positive side to this story in that you may be able to use the Zeigarnik effect to your benefit. If there is something you are procrastinating on, simply get started, once you have committed to a task you are more likely to finish it because the Zeigarnik effect will haunt you until you complete it. By working with a task management system and scheduling the work to be done you can use the Zeigarnik effect to your benefit.