To Do or Not To Do, that is the Question!

To Do Lists or Not To Do Lists

Recently, there was a lively debate between Kevin Kruse and Sir Richard Branson about the Pros and Cons of using To Do lists as part of your productivity workflow.

Kevin Kruse, author of the book "15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management", recently published an article in Fastcompany entitled "Why Creating A To-Do List Is Derailing Your Success”. In this article, Kevin suggested eliminating your "To Do" lists. He stated that they were a waste of time, were rarely followed, and increased your stress levels.

In his article he highlights 3 key problems with To Do lists:

  1. They don’t account for time.

  2. They don’t distinguish between urgent and important.

  3. They contribute to stress.

Instead of using "To Do" lists, he proposes an approach of “time scheduling” all your key activities.

Instead of to-do lists you should block off your calendar with time for the most important things, like emailing or planning, so that you are not distracted.
— Kevin Kruse

Kevin provides 3 key suggestions in his article:

  1. Time-block the most important things.

  2. Think in 15-minute increments.

  3. Schedule everything.

In his article, he actually named Sir. Richard Branson as an example of a super-productive executive that doesn't make use of To Do lists.

Do you really think Richard Branson and Bill Gates write long to-do lists and prioritize items as A1, A2, B1, B2, and so on?
— Kevin Kruse

Well, it appears that Richard Branson must have heard about this reference to him in Kevin's article and disagreed with this statement and that he, in fact, does make extensive use of "To Do" lists.  

I can confidently state that our culture of notes and thoughtful to-do lists has made Virgin what it is today.
— Sir Richard Branson.

On his Virgin blog, he posted an article "To-do lists are only useful if you DO them" in which he outlines why To Do lists were a critical part of his, and his firm’s success.  

In his article, Richard makes a few key points:

  1. Writing down your ideas helps to organize your thoughts and provide focus.

  2. Not doing everything on your To Do list is actually part of the process.

  3. By writing things down, it helps you decide what is actually worth doing.

In fact, Richard went on to state in the article:

I can assure him that I do indeed write to-do lists and prioritise items. I live my life by writing lists – there is one next to me right now. Without to-do lists, I would use my time far less effectively, and have a lot less fun. People wonder how I fit in kitesurfing and tennis every day alongside business meetings – the answer is good planning and to-do lists. My habit has also rubbed off on many of our team, who are also avid note-takers and to-do list makers.
— Sir Richard Brnason

Well, things didn't stop there.....

In response to Richard's article, Kevin posted a challenge to him. He stated that if invited to meet with Richard Branson on his private island, he could convince him to give-up his To Do lists in 30 minutes.  Kevin even offered a $25,000 charitable donation if he couldn't convince Richard to switch, but his "To Do" list as a prize if he could convince him to switch.

Kevin also clarified that he was not against the use of basic lists or note taking. Instead, his point was that in order to achieve ultra-productivity, scheduling your tasks is more successful and less stressful then using To Do lists.

It’s an interesting question and debate.  

As you perform your daily Email processing, think of how "To Do" lists fit into your own, personal "ways-of-working".

In a prior article, I actually discussed the need for Balancing Tasks and Appointments with your Calendar.

I suggest you review the original article by Kevin Kruse, the response by Richard Branson, and the challenge by Kevin Kruse in detail.  There are also some good "comments" to the articles by many readers.

I will provide my viewpoints in my next post, but would be interested in your thoughts on the matter.

Do you make use of To Do Lists?

Would you consider replacing your To Do lists entirely with the use Scheduled Appointments?