Break in Perspectives #2: To-do-lists

This blog series arose from an exchange and a dialogue between a student and a lecturer about an educational subject. This time, Michèle and Mona look at how to successfully use to-do-lists.

Michèle Ritter, student

Let’s get things done in January!

I wish everyone a belated happy new year, lots of energy and motivation through exam season! Remember, it is not that long of a way to go!

Did you start your year with some resolutions? I did not. I started my year by diligently planning the days remaining until exams arrive. Yes, I am the total to-do-list-student par excellence! And as January starts with exam preparation, I like to put all my tasks together and plan them with my list. Besides the good feeling after checking a box, I use the list mainly to organise all my responsibilities and not to forget something. That is why a good tool should provide me with a lot of flexibility managing my lists (yes, there are several), so that I can manage my tasks however I like it best. Do not hesitate to try out more than one tool until you find a good one, such lists are personal and it is crucial that you are comfortable working with them.

With “wunderlist” I have found a tool that suits me pretty well. It is compatible with all your devices and has a reminder function, which can be very useful, especially when you manage several lists at the same time. Further, I can add subtasks as well as notes to each task.

It sounds easy, right? Well, it is. And that is usually the most important part when working with to-do-lists. You have to work with discipline and not only put things on the list because it looks good. The planning, when a task should be done still happens in your brain. I know a lot of people who cannot work with lists or similar strategies, which is fine. To-do-lists are here to use and if you do, use them right. Because working with a tool that does not fit you will just limit your efficiency on the way to reaching your goals.


Mona Meyer, lecturer

Think big, aim high, act bold.

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with to-do-lists.

We know them as post-it notes, printed templates, and applications. To-do-lists are a staple of the time-management industry, aren’t they?

I observe how students list simply the things they think they need to do; the first thing on their list is just the first thing they thought of. Their to-do-list is a survival lists – getting them through their day. They serve as a useful collection of our best intentions. When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. These to-do-lists lack the intent of success.

So how can a to-do-list become a success-list? You need to prioritize. To-do-lists tend to be long; success-lists are short. If you write down twelve keywords of what you could do and should do, you now decide what matters most and then allow what really matters to drive your day. Your list consists of four keywords now. Ask yourself: what is the one thing you can do today to complete your current project ahead of schedule? Then put all of your energy into accomplishing the most important thing. Focus on being productive – not on being busy. Because multitasking is an effective way to get less done.

Another supportive tool is creating a “not-to-do-list”. We often get distracted with unimportant things – things that do not lead to extraordinary results. Things like housework, groceries, checking emails and making phone calls are included on this list.

Lining up your priorities anew and focusing on the essentials is a daily task. Personally, what helps me is on the one hand blocking time slots in my agenda and on the other hand defining the one task or tasks that absolutely need to be accomplished.

Contact the authors

Mona Meyer, mona.meyer@fhnw.ch

Michèle Ritter, michele.ritter@students.fhnw.ch

Read also:

Break in Perspectives #1: Deadlines

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