It is a conundrum that has baffled the best business minds since time immemorial, a dilemma of profound importance to business productivity – what is better to use, a to-do list, a calendar, or both?
Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Is one better than the other? Would using them together give you the best of both worlds? Here is a rundown covering the pros and cons of each.
The To-Do List
It’s the workhorse of organization. Everyone has a to-do list. What are their benefits? First, they force you to take the ethereal plans floating around in your head and make them concrete and specific. When you put something on a to-do list, it gets assigned a number, a rank, and a description.
And those numbers and ranks also help you to establish priorities. The higher something is on the list, the more important it is and likely the more urgent. It also helps you to take larger projects with a number of moving parts and break them down by itemizing them on the list.
It also lets you know whether you are making progress or not – you can see your progress as you cross things off the list.
But to-do lists have drawbacks as well. Many people don’t take the time to prioritize things on the list. They simply jot tasks down, ending up with a hodgepodge. Lists can become too long, and, as a result, people seldom get to the tasks at the bottom of the list. This also can be demoralizing because you feel like you are not making any progress.
When we continue to add things to the list, we often end up with too many choices. Using a calendar, however, makes us limit our choices, allowing us to make decisions more quickly. Some also argue that when you have both shorter and longer tasks on the list, you usually end up choosing the shorter tasks, another problem avoided with a calendar.
Also, with lists, people tend to do the more easy, pleasant tasks before those that are more demanding. Using a calendar also prevents you from taking on too many tasks because you can easily see what you already are obligated to do.
For these reasons, some argue that using a calendar to plan events is more effective.
Calendars and lists each have their own pluses and minuses. That is why sometimes it makes sense to use both, calendars for events that are tied to a time or date, and a list for tasks that are not time dependent.