I’ve spent a lot of time with to-do lists. I think I understand them and I’m sure I know how to work them. I was aided by some psychology lessons in various books with a special mention to “Ready for Anything” by David Allen (thanks David). To-do lists are useful tools if used appropriately and I use them to organize myself every day.
I think, however, that productivity manuals would work much better if they also instituted a “to think” list. A to-think list is a list of 1-3 things that you are intentionally thinking about. All our minds wander a fair bit during the day – that’s part of being human. However, our minds are easily influenced. That is why our minds wander to thoughts about our worries and insecurities when we are feeling worried or insecure. And, by default, our minds tend to be influenced by negative things; we spend more time about that one negative comments versus the 20 positive ones.
So, I’d suggest writing out 1-3 things you’d like to think about and looking at it often. That way, your mind will wander on these questions from time to time.
I think of a to-think list as an important complement to a to-do list. Thinking is how we get to structuring and breaking bigger tasks down in bite-sized chunks that need to be done by a to-do list. So, I’d argue that a “to think” list is the prioritization tool while a “to do” list is the execution tool. It helps me get my head around bigger and tougher questions as I learn to do less, but better. No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thought..