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Some people are forever writing to-do lists seeing this as the best way to outline the work they have to do for the day, to put their thoughts in order and to help themselves be more productive.

And indeed to-do lists can do all that. At the same time they can also help you to avoid forgetting any important tasks and they can be very encouraging as you ‘tick off’ each item on your list.

But to-do lists also have a dark-side and if you don’t use them correctly they can in fact end up doing more harm than good. Read on and we’ll look at the dark side of to-do lists and how they can end up actually damaging your productivity…

Forever Writing…

The first clue was in the opening sentence of this article. Some people are forever writing to-do lists. And while those to-do lists are potentially going to be beneficial for your productivity, they nevertheless will take you time to write meaning that you’re taking time out of your day.

Some people in fact will end up using to-do lists as a form of procrastination. Rather than getting on with work, writing a to-do list might seem like a much more appealing alternative to kill ten minutes.

If you have ever started your to-do list with ‘write to do list’ then that’s a pretty big clue that you’re writing these lists for the sake of writing them (you may laugh, but people do this!).


Writing to-do lists can also potentially be demotivating. Sure, it’s very motivating when you cross an item off of your to-do list and feel that rewarding sense of progress; but it can be similarly disheartening to leave a to-do list incomplete or to just see that it’s so long you’re unlikely to ever even approach it.

Lack of Structure

To-do lists unfortunately aren’t very flexible and they don’t have much structure. This is literally a list of things you have to do, either in order of importance or in no order at all. It’s easy to skip items on to-do lists when you don’t feel like them while completing some tasks might take much more time and energy than others. In effect then, a to-do list really doesn’t do as much as it could do and you might find that writing a ‘plan’ or timetable for the day would be more productive if you really did want to provide yourself with some structure.