But, it turns out, your to-do list-based inefficiency may not be down to innate laziness/inability to complete even the most basic of tasks, which is good news.
According to Allison Rimm, a management consultant writing in the Harvard Business Review, we need to create more than one to-do list in order to efficiently manage our lives and priorities.
She suggests three: one for “important but non time-sensitive projects”; one for “items that need to be completed today”; and one she calls the “not to do list”.
This is the most important of the three, she says. The point of the not to do list is to “remind me of things I’ve consciously decided aren’t worth my time”.
“Writing them down keeps them from sneaking back on my to-do list,” she explains. “Taking the time to develop a clear mission - your personal purpose - and a vision of what success looks like is essential if you are to be judicious about determining what is important enough to get on your list in the first place”.
“Once you accept that you have more to do than time to do it all, that is actually a liberating concept. This realisation forces you to acknowledge there are lower priority items that you will likely never complete,” Rimm says. “Delete those non-essentials, put them on your not-to-do list, and commit to letting them go.”
Obviously this doesn’t mean you can leave your washing up for three months or not do your tax return – essential but miserable tasks don’t count. But things like reorganising your sock drawer or colour-coding your bookcase can probably go on the not to do list.
“This exercise should be energising and inspiring, releasing you from feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or resentful,” Rimm concludes. “Clear the decks to make the time and space you need to get to what you really want to accomplish.”