Why not be more productive? You’re busy, sure enough. But you could definitely step it up a notch. Believe it or not, your to-do list, your productivity savior itself, may be the culprit. You’re using it wrong.

How a to-do list can help

I have not only my own business, but also a house to run and my own health to maintain. When I first found myself in charge of my own schedule as a busy freelancer, I was overwhelmed.

I struggled to establish healthy daily habits. When I remembered one thing, I may not have felt motivated to do it. And even if I felt motivated, I would often forget.

Then I found an uncomplicated to-do list app easy to configure. I started off with a few daily habits I wanted to maintain. The list grew and grew until I had everything worked out—daily habits, weekly work tasks, monthly reminders, and all!

I can’t even put a price-tag on the value of this method. My life has definitely changed for the better.

Along the way, however, there have been pitfalls.


to do list be more productive lazy business owner

Stock Photo – Unsplash


How a to-do list can hurt

To-do lists are indeed useful productivity tools, but they can also hinder task management. Here are 10 things you may be doing wrong:

    1. Not checking it daily. While over-checking is definitely not recommended, you should check your to-do list daily. Do this soon after you get up or else at the start of your workday. A to-do list has no value unless you actually use it. And it can even increase in value if you use it to establish new habits. Think about it! You only have to start with one habit: checking your list.


    1. Not using your to-do list to build healthy habits. If you’re as lazy as I am, you don’t feel like cleaning your house, writing a bit of your eBook, or even spending five minutes catching up on marketing news. Not on a daily basis. When such small tasks are set to recur on your list each day, however, you have found a way to motivate yourself. You’ll be much more likely to spend a few minutes each day “ironing out” your life, so to speak. When the mood strikes, you may spend even more time on the task than you expected to. The final result? A sense of accomplishment, and less stress!


    1. Crossing things off at the beginning of the day. I’m talking about incomplete tasks which you have decided not to prioritize today. While clearing up a full list seems to help you focus, this isn’t a good idea. You should be training yourself to get as much done each day as possible, right? Well, pushing off tasks at the start of the day only conditions you to keep from trying your best. You would be giving yourself consolation for not trying harder. Instead, don’t put off a task until you have worked on it a little bit until your brain explodes, or until you have reached a good stopping point. At the end of the day, or once you have run out of work hours, then you are allowed to push the task out of today’s way.


    1. bucket of rocks priorities how to be more productive how to use a to do list

      Stock photo by Pixabay

      Getting all quicker tasks done first. This may be a great way of boosting your ego, but your high will only crash later. Because it’s likely that the smaller tasks are less-pressing and less-important. Try, instead, to view them as MINOR tasks. While it would be nice to squeeze them into the busy day, try to make progress on the largest projects first. Have you ever seen someone try to fit a bunch of large rocks and small pebbles into a bucket? When they add the pebbles first, the large rocks won’t fit well. However, when the largest rocks are added first, the small pebbles fit into the remaining space and the bucket is able to fit much more. The capacity of the bucket remains unchanged—it’s just the order of things has been altered. So it is with priorities. You’ll fit the smaller tasks into your day more easily if you work on them later.


    1. Focusing solely on tasks and projects. It’s equally important to keep track of time. Why? Because a task can live eternally if it puts up enough of a fuss. By contrast, you can take comfort in the end of the workday when it comes. According to your daily or weekly routine, set an amount of time to work. Track your hours. When you need to, take a break. Allow yourself two “paid” 15-minute breaks for a full work day if you like. If you have trouble focusing, it’s okay to take a short break every 20-35 minutes.


    1. Adding a completed task only to derive satisfaction from crossing it off the list. According to Michael Hyatt, productivity extraordinaire, this wastes time. Even if you take note of a small task that you haven’t completed yet, you could be fooling yourself. Remember David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule: if it can be done in two minutes, just do it. You’re not being productive if you manipulate your to-do list to make yourself feel good.


    1. The same principle applies to constantly checking things off throughout the day. If you keep consulting the list (which contains habitual tasks and others you are well aware of), you’re wasting precious time. If you pause your work to reorganize your task list to appeal to your sense of OCD, you’re wasting precious time. These seconds could easily turn into hours. Rather than checking off a single task immediately after completion, try working on as many tasks as possible strictly from memory. Every two hours or so, check your list to see if a priority adjustment is needed.


    1. Pushing a task to the next day….day after day after day. The fact is, procrastinating like this doesn’t make you feel good. This only makes you feel more stressed. Especially because the task you keep putting off is likely the largest or most daunting one. Instead of putting it off even longer, try to get it done as soon as possible. You won’t believe how much better you’ll feel!


    1. Not trying to get ahead on the next day’s tasks when you have time. This can even apply to daily recurring tasks. For example, I use my to-do list app to motivate me to clean my house up a little each day. When I spend extra time doing a deeper clean today, then I may deem it fair to cross of the “cleanup” reminder off of tomorrow’s list as well.


  1. Spending more time configuring your to-do list app than actually working on necessary tasks. To-do lists should help you streamline your life and get more done. They shouldn’t be making your life more complicated. That’s why any.do is my go-to app for everything I need to get done. It’s simple to manage any task—add it, schedule it, cross it off. No frills, no time wasted.

Melissa Dailey

Hi, I’m Melissa. I established this site to help you accomplish your goals in working for yourself to lead a free life. Even if you think you’re too busy or too lazy to succeed.