Dump-your-to-do-list-imageAs  a supervisor, you may be required to write to-do lists to help you stay on track and be productive, but yet find yourself choosing to complete only the most critical tasks and having ignored the least important ones at the end of the day. Who would blame you?  According to researchers, our minds can only process up to 7 tasks without feeling overwhelmed; anything beyond this and we risk pulling our own hair out.

The idea behind using to-do lists is usually to familiarize oneself with the process of completing tasks, but the quicker you dump your to-do list, the better. Here are a few reasons why using checklists actually make your job a lot more difficult to do than you imagined.

Problems with a to-do list and similar staff task management tools

The Paradox of Choice

The term ‘Paradox of Choice’, made popular by American psychologist Barry Schwartz, explains that limiting your choices enables you to be more efficient and productive. For example, when you have 20 plus items to complete by the end of the week, it is easy to become paralyzed and overwhelmed by the tasks you need to complete. Instead of focusing on your work, you start checking e-mails or finding other non-productive things to do.

Quality or quantity?

Imagine you’ve jotted down 10 tasks that have to be completed by tomorrow, but you didn’t consider the time it would take or how exactly to go about completing the tasks. As the deadline approaches you realize how little time you have left and you decide to pick the ones that can be done quickly and postpone the rest regardless of how important they may be. After all, your to-do list will look a lot better with 7 minor tasks checked off than with only 3 major ones marked as complete.

Or you only complete ‘high’ priority tasks

Even if you do organize your to-do lists according to task priority, there is still a good chance you won’t end up getting everything done. It is quite possible that you will end up only completing the ‘high’ priority tasks and ignoring the rest until they become a ‘high’ priority later on. As lower priority tasks begin to constantly fall by the wayside, they eventually become forgotten or discarded altogether.

Why checklists are a better alternative to task management

SMBs are far better off using a checklist system, such as a task management app, instead of a to-do list. A checklist does not involve simply listing tasks on a piece of paper like a to-do list does. Instead, it gives employees direction and tells them exactly which tasks to complete and which order to complete them in.

Using checklists allows you to address the problems with to-do lists that Schwartz and his colleagues identified in their research. You are able to eliminate the Paradox of Choice by taking away the decision variables. You also won’t feel tempted to complete tasks based on how much time you have left and you won’ t skip over less important tasks in favor of completing high-priority tasks first and ultimately letting them fall through the cracks.

So if you are a business owner or manager currently using to-do lists at work, think about switching to a task management app . And if you have any of your own favorite tips or tools for managing tasks at work, feel free to share them in the comments section below. I always love hearing from my readers!