I’ve struggled with todo lists my entire life. Like many others, I am very disciplined at entering tasks into my todo list. However, I suffer from “Todo List Blackhole Syndrome” or “Todo List BS”. Tasks go in, but they never come out.
To overcome “Todo List BS”, I’ve added another trick to my productivity arsenal. It’s Streaking.
Streaking is a method of tracking the number of times I complete an activity in sequence. Sort of the productivity flavor of “number of days without an accident”. The underlying science behind this approach is trying to create habits by triggering dopamine. Dopamine is created in the brain by the reward/excitement of keeping the streak going and thus reinforces the activity of checking the “streak list”. After a period of time, “streaks” graduate into habits.
I’ve tried this before with a number of really cool mobile apps (like Balanced). The problem with apps is that they aren’t naturally in my face. They are great for mobile access, but not for true visual triggering.
The Streak List
I now have a simple sheet of paper taped to my office door that has the “streaks” I’m working on. Each one has a tally of the sequential times I’ve completed this behavior. I see it on the way into to work and every time I take a break, stretch or even just look up from my screen. Since, “Prioritize Task List” is the first thing I need to do in the morning, it’s at the top of the list.
As I’ve been playing with this approach, my ability to make new habits has gone through the roof. I’ve found that the sweet spot is between 3-5 “streaks”, since that’s all I can quickly glance at as I walk past the door. Like my task list itself, the “streaks” list changes as I build habits and no longer need the visual cue.
So if you’re in a rut of making lists, but never checking back on the list… take your clothes off and give streaking a try.