To-do lists might be one of the simplest organizational tools, but writing to-do lists was not something that I really liked to do. I thought to-do lists would rigidly outline my day and stop me from having flexibility and rid me of my “go with the flow” attitude. Although I am an organized person who has so far been successful in meeting deadlines and not missing important events, the chaos of college life can become extremely stressful with just a planner, a calendar, and my memory. After reading a lot about how the effectiveness of detailed to-do lists, I decided to test this claim and see whether to-do lists would actually aid me in accomplishing more in my day.
Over the span of five days, I wrote a step-by-step list of activities that I needed to accomplish during the day. Everyday, the list included assignments that I needed to turn in, meetings, my class schedule, and even seemingly trivial things such as waking up and eating lunch. Each day, before I went to bed, I counted how many things I finished from my list to assess my success rate. In general, my to-do list was organized by time and the urgency of the task. This helped to prioritize certain things and to know what should be done first.
One of the best things about making a to-do list is the feeling of accomplishment that you get. Whenever I crossed off something from the list, I felt a sense of satisfaction. Knowing that I was able to finish all or a portion of the list further motivated me to add more tasks. I also noticed that I became less distracted when I was doing assignments because I had a goal of finishing something to move on to the next one.
Surprisingly, I rarely referenced my to-do list. The tasks that I needed to finish were already embedded in my mind after writing them once on the list. Personally, this was a huge positive aspect because it helped enhance my memory of what I have to do and when I have to do it.
However, I realized that to-do lists can only be helpful if one chooses them to be. For someone like me who is trying to test out the theory on their usefulness, I had to make my to-do list extremely doable and practical. I also had to rigorously follow them in order to see the difference that would happen in comparison to when I’m not using them so, my experience is definitely not applicable to everyone. On the other hand, remembering that to-do lists are meant to de-clutter your thoughts can help you feel more prepared to tackle your daily activities in a realistic way.
Whether you need a bit of organization in your life or just a reminder that you should be accomplishing something everyday, to-do lists are a great way to do that (no pun intended). They are one of the least time consuming things that you can write and can give a bit of structure to a long day, week or month that you might have. If you’re a college student who’s scared of not hitting that 11:59 p.m. deadline, a to-do list can be good in helping with the trap of procrastination and the anxiety that you might experience when you can no longer keep up with your calendar.