There is also another option. But first let's examine the pros and cons and then we can each decide what works best for our particular needs.
They give you a sense of control and accomplishment. Crossing items off your list gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction which, in turn, tends to motivate and propel you to get more done.
They create order. A to-do list is a good way to organize and prioritize your tasks as well as break them down into smaller doable items.
They provide accountability. The act of creating a list and having it right in front of you holds you accountable to get it done. It’s hard to deny that you have tasks to complete when they are staring back to remind you.
➔ They don't accurately measure how long each task takes to complete. Not knowing which tasks will take longer than planned can blow up your whole to-do list; again causing stress and uncertainty.
➔ Most of us end up doing the easy tasks first and procrastinate on the complex ones. When you end up doing the easy stuff first, the important tasks are still left undone which defeats the purpose - to be efficient and productive.
➔ Lack of elaboration. To-do lists don't provide enough information to determine what to work on first or how to prioritize properly, especially the day after you’ve compiled your list. As a result, you spend more time trying to figure out what to do and when.
As you can see to-do lists may not be for everyone. An interesting and popular alternative is working from a calendar.
Those who prefer using a calendar contend that it makes sense to focus on managing time instead of tasks. When you assign a time/time frame, for various tasks, appointments, etc. you are committed to finishing them within that time frame. You are also more likely to complete them since 41% of tasks on to-do lists never get done.
✓ The more you plan and schedule your time on the calendar, the less likely unforeseen interruptions will derail your agenda. On the other hand, avoid cramming your calendar; leave room for the unexpected.
✓ The act of scheduling tasks on your calendar frees your mind and therefore reduces the stress caused by unfinished tasks from a to-do list. That which is scheduled usually gets done.
✓ When you use a calendar you don't fall into the trap of over-committing. You know what to do and when to do it according to how you’ve scheduled it.
✓ Using a calendar helps you stick to a routine and remain focused. It ensures you remain productive because if something isn’t planned, you won't waste time doing it.
✓ Since everything takes time, including doing nothing, to account for and track your time, you should schedule it on your calendar. Lists don’t reflect how much time you spend getting things done.
So, what works best for you - using to-do lists or the calendar? Should you use both?
From a productivity point of view, probably neither approach alone is right, mostly because the tools are similar, but do different things.
For instance, to-do lists are great for tracking all your tasks and chores, while calendars keep you focused on where and when you need to be. Calendars do not make ideal to-do lists because they are time-oriented, whereas to-do lists can fall short because they don’t have a time tracking component.
Common sense may suggest setting up a calendar for time or date centered events such as "dentist appointment on Friday" or "meeting with client on Tuesday," while a to-do list can entail actions such as "make a hair appointment" or "clean bedroom closet."
Ultimately, both tools have their pros and cons. After considering all options, decide what works best for your work or lifestyle and be productive!