Successful professionals are effective managers of that very precious resource—their own time. For students, studying effectively requires that you use time wisely. The time-honored to-do list is an essential tool for seasoned professionals, students, anyone who understands the importance of time management. Having a written to-do list is important, but it’s more important to do what is on it.
A 2011 article by Masicampo and Baumeister in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology cited research that college students pursue an average of 15 goals at any one time. In a series of experiments that demonstrated the benefit of having a specific plan of action and completing tasks, Masicampo and Baumeister concluded that getting tasks off the agenda “can free cognitive resources for other tasks,” improving overall performance. Use a to-do list to unclutter your mind.
There is a lively debate about the value of to-do lists, but most writers seem to agree that an effective to-do list doesn’t clutter your mind with too many things to do, but rather clears it by letting you get things done and off your mind. In other words, their real value emerges when you complete tasks on the list, and therefore short lists that can be completed are the most useful. Lists of 3-5 items that can be done in a day or other specified time frame may work best for you.
If you try it, you will probably find that having a list of 3 to 5 items that you actually do in a day or other specified time period will help unclutter your mind. Did you do your to-do list today?