How Many To Do Lists Do You Actually Need?
I think this is an age old question with pretty much anything that deals with quantity, volume, or any other measurable unit: How much or how many is enough? What is the limit? People have an inherent desire to want a lot but I can guarantee that having a lot is not going to do any more good than having enough. There is always a threshold that when crossed diminishes the benefit or advantage of having something. In addition, having too much or too many of anything can have unintended consequences that you never would desire. There is always a price you pay not just in the literal sense but in a metaphorical sense as well.
For instance, a good example that comes to my mind is when you subscribe to cable television. You have a tendency to get too many channels including paid and premium channels because you think you can watch all of them but the reality is that you've got limited time to watch all channels. The consequence is you pay a lot of money for something you don't use and you don't enjoy it because you are likely flipping the channels most of the time trying to decide what to watch or watch other channels between commercials. My point is you have to recognize when too many is too much. It is ok to say no to have too many or too much of anything.
It is no different with to do lists. To do lists are there to help you navigate your busy schedule or to get things done on time. They are there to take the stress out of your life, make you feel enjoyable, and fulfilled in your daily life. When you look at your to do list you should not feel threatened, dreaded, or put off by it because it is too many and unmanageable. How many times have we looked at something that is not easy to deal with and said “Oh, well I'll deal with it later, it is just too much to handle it right now”. That's exactly what I am talking about. To do lists should be inviting not repulsing.
Having too many to do lists can make you feel like you are procrastinating. The obvious answer is you should not have too many to do lists but how much is too many. What is too many for some could be too little for others. Whatever you do it is important that you feel comfortable with the list and that it is works what it is designed to do i.e., help you manage your tasks without putting too much stress on you or your schedule. Based on my experience the first thing that should be done is to come up with logical to do lists without worrying about whether they are too many or not. After this is done you need to evaluate the each to do list to make sure if indeed you really need it. It could make logical sense to combine one or more to do lists as you go through them. No matter what you do your to do lists have to be a logical and sensible grouping of similar tasks. This exercise is to determine what list is valid and what is not without worrying too much about whether you have too many lists. After you've weeded out lists that you don't really need next step is to actually look and see if you have too many of them.
The reason why you create to do lists is so you can group your tasks and make it easy to navigate and locate your tasks. This will save you time when working with your to do lists. So in this step you take a hard look at the number of to do lists. It is a good practice in my opinion to limit your to do list to one screen length so you don't have to scroll down the list to get to lists hidden from your direct view. After you've removed or consolidated more to do list to shorten the number of lists your list will definitely become manageable. So bottom line is to keep the number of to-do lists a manageable number that you are comfortable with at the end of the day.