Everybody knows how good it feels to write a to-do list. It gives you a real sense of calm and control when you have a million things to do.
But how long does that good feeling last? And is it really helpful if you get your psychological reward before you’ve actually achieved anything?
A to-do list is only useful if it tells you where your attention needs to be right now. If you’ve made a list but not decided which one item to focus on then you’ll never get anything done.
Once you’ve written a list, the next step is to decide, firmly, what you’re going to do next. Reduce it down to a list of one, making sure that it’s a small enough task that you know what actions to take.
You’ll still get distracted, but it’s much easier to get back on track when you have a single, clearly defined task to bring your attention back to.