To-do lists are the bane of my existence.  They’re long, they’re impossible, and every time you check something off, Boom!  Another item is added to the list.

Sound effects aside, I never realized how To-Do lists were actually discouraging my productivity.  I always figured that at least having a list of things to do would improve the rate of actually getting things done.

Figure 1

List * Stuff To-Do = Productivity

Except, there’s a catch.  (Of course there is, why else would I be writing an article about it?)

You know that great, soaring feeling you get when you cross something off your list?  It’s the feeling of accomplishment, the very feeling that makes to-do lists worthwhile.  And when you don’t get something crossed off your list, it motivates you to finish it and check it off, right?

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Well, yeah, in theory.

But in my experience there’s another factor, a confounding variable, if you will.  It’s the state of being absolutely overwhelmed by a task on your to-do list.  Most likely, it’s something that you can’t just sit down and do, because it’s too big to do in just one day.  So you sit down for a few hours, you work on it, and then, by the time you leave the university library, it’s still not done.

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Have you ever had that feeling?  It’s sort of like being at your life’s lowest point, and then grabbing a chisel and a hammer and descending even deeper into the abyss of anti-productivity.

And friends, that’s a scary abyss.  The deeper you go, the less related the YouTube videos are to your personal interests.

Unproductive

And why do we do this?  Why do we always end up procrastinating on our big projects, our extensive reading notes, and our duties for university involvement?  I can’t say for sure, but this is my theory.

My theory is that we feel overwhelmed by difficult and lengthy tasks, and when we can’t just sit down, do them, and check them off the list, we do something, anything, to distract ourselves from the all-consuming feeling of overwhelm.

Hello, YouTube.  I’m looking at you, secret chocolate stash.

Figure 2

(List * Stuff To-Do)/ (overwhelming feeling from hell) = Low Productivity

So what’s a poor college student to do?

Here’s what works for me.  Whenever I leave the library after hours of work and no crossed off items, I reward myself.  I tell myself all about just how great I am, and how hard I worked and how my professors would be oh-so proud of me if they knew about my fantastic time management.  (In my head, of course.)  If I’m still not convinced, I might eat a brownie or listen to my favorite playlist.

However, if your to-do lists look anything like mine, you might have a few little, tiny tasks that won’t take much time to complete.  Do those before you dig into your Big Important Time-Consuming Thing, and cross those little tasks off.  You get the feeling of being productive with half the work!  What a deal!

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If you’re still not satisfied with the amount of check marks, then I suggest breaking The Big Time-Consuming Thing into little, tiny pieces on your list.  As you go, check them off, and feel the accomplishment swell up in your heart and soul.  I like to assign myself little chunks to do every day in my planner, until well-ah!  The work is finished, and you never had to stay up until 2 AM to do it.

productive

But what about you?  What do you do to stay productive?  Do you get the overwhelming feeling from hell, or are you Wonder Woman?  Comment down below and let me know.  If you value my advice, you should click the like button, and follow my lovely blog.  Peace out or whatever.

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