Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eight Surprising To-Do List Facts

While writing and compiling To-Do List I took an online survey to find out more about our common quirks , compulsions and habits as listmakers. Six hundred people participated, and full results are in the book, but I thought I would share a few of these stats with you now along with some of my other observations based on collecting lists. How do you compare?

1. Many people hang on to their lists for years, if not decades. A list is like a diary. It captures a moment in time. (Two of the lists in the book more more than fifty years old.) I was amazed when these people trusted me with these treasured keepsakes and sent them to me in the mail.

2. Most people (83%) still prefer the tactile experience of writing their lists with pen and paper. The visceral pleasure of crossing things off cannot be underestimated. And people often feel more accountable when a list is in their own handwriting.

3. 29% of people have written at least part of their lists in code. The most common codes were from women who don’t want the boss or co-workers to walk by and see they were buying feminine hygiene products. “Tampons,” “birth control” or “maxi pads” equal T, BC, and MP. I could not believe when these answers kept coming up again and again in survey answers! Uncanny!

4. 50% admitted to writing down tasks they have already done, then triumphantly crossing them off. That way, they have a more complete picture of everything they’ve done, plus another opportunity to cross something off. It’s sort of insane how much we love crossing things off, huh?

5. Ideal mate lists are more popular than ever. 51% have made a list describing their ideal mate. But only 38% think these lists are useful in finding or evaluating a partner. How good is good enough? Many of the people who contributed dream mate lists said 70% was the threshold. If someone fulfilled fewer than 70% of the desired traits, they would say, “Let’s just be friends.”

6. More people cross off tasks (66%) than check off (21%). 4% write an "x", and 5% do nothing at all (let it be). Very odd.

7. 96% say their lives are better with to-do lists. 89% say they enjoy making lists. 28% identify as obesssive listmakers.

8. 26% of listmakers at one point have written a "to-don't" list. According to the survey, most concern men not to date or sleep with.


r0ck3t3r said...

I used to be in the habit of making lists in a waterproof notebook and never looking at them again, or much less actually following them. Here is a copy of one I made some years ago

1. write award for *****
2. turn in to orderly room
3. run away (well not really)
4. think about number 3
5. check on buses
6. shut off cell phone
7. get bags to company
8. turn in keys
9. get weapons by 06
10. load buses, go to green ramp, fly to Iraq, try not to get killed.

riverrat said...

As a long time list-maker, I had no idea I was in a "category" with other fine folks. And a book?!Well...
Since I keep my lists on unlined 3x5s, they tend to pile up and I find myself consolidating my assorted lists to new lists at least once a week. I am now trying a happily colored notebook for my lists.
Worried about my memory, I checked the Alzheimer website. Under one symptom, it claimed you were in the "norm" if you could function with LISTS. Hurray! No problem there:-)

voggutta said...

I am ADDICTED to crossing things out. Sometimes I cross days off my calendar early so I can pretend I've already conquered them.

Queeny said...

Ideal mate lists -- I should have made one before I got married.

lookalikejgarcia said...

What a great idea to create a post-it sticker that is a To-Do List Fact, and then space to make your own to do list.

Taka no Hisui said...

I actually wrote an ideal mate list with two columns for needed and wanted qualities. My fiance only missed one quality on the entire list. What was it? One of my wants is that the man is tall. The men in my family are all 5'10" or taller, my fiance? 5'8.5"

Madnote said...

I just started making lists in college..i cant believe I actually fitted in 6 of the items you listed haha!

btw, I also have this reusable list - it contains the usually constant things that i need to accomplish every weekend like giving the dogs a bath and house cleaning lol




Love, from sunny Lisbon!

Mommy Reel said...

I live by my list, it helps keep thing in order, I actually carry a mini list in a waterproof protected case. It helps me stay organized and glamorous.

Rick said...

Now I know why I enjoy crossing off completed tasks on my to-do list . . .

"Visceral Pleasure!"

My new favorite phrase!

Crossing off items is probably better for you than celebrating with ice cream!

Linda Heidari said...

I swear,I can write a grocery list
and even manage to remember to put it in my purse, but as a general rule,when I get to the store I forget all about it!Maybe my cell rings, or something always happens,
and I end up forgeting some of my items.I especially hate it on hollidays.HAPPY HOLLIDAYS,to all!
Linda Heidari

Curt said...

What a great blog!

J. Wilson said...

Wow, how great! Good job on a very admiral blog. I too find myself compiling separate lists into one master list... which ends up being followed by another, new list, ultimately.

Check out my blog if you get a chance:

Joy Logan said...

What a wonderful idea! I need lists to get thru a week so that makes sense how fascinating they are of others. Bravo!

~Angela~ said...

I have two lists that are fully in code. One is list of things I would look for in a guy, and the other is a list of things that I would take as a sign from God that a guy is Mr. Right.

And the lists are both so silly that I have to put them in code so that no one could ever figure out what they were if they found them.

Sasha said...

that's funny that your lists are so coded. . . they can be rather intimate.

Linda Heidari said...

I like to try to be as organized as
possible, if only I can keep track of my lists. Sometimes when maybe I'm stressed or in a hurry,I simply forget some things.But all in all,I think lists are generally
helpful.Again thanks for your e-mail,Have a great Holliday season,

Linda Heidari said...

Hi Angella, I like your lists.Pretty good.I write things down to remind myself,and if anyone else found it, I swear they would think I had lost it.That is terribly embarrassing.But then I thought, who cares,who is one person to judge another? Thanks for your e-mail,keep in touch.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.Linda

Linda Heidari said...

Hi J.Wilson,you are so right!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


new c,mps base 53

Emily's Blog said...

I totally do the code thing for feminine products, etc..."pons"


Princess Haiku said...

I have some lists from years ago. They give micro images of what you were actually doing at that time... Of how you filled the substance of your hours.

Marc said...

Listing what you will do later (or never) is great. It takes the 'incomplete' pressure off you.

I'd love to see the relationship between procrastinators and listers. It would be an interesting study :)

Charlie on the PA Turnpike said...

Well done! You've certainly struck a chord with people.

My to-dos have been digital for at least 10 years now (yeah, I am a geek by profession), because at least the overdue ones turn red to nag at me (so they don't last long). And while the archive shows all of my completed tasks and any notes, they are purged after a year. I've never thought about looking back; can't fathom why I would care.

But them I am an odd duck in so many other ways, why not add this to the list.

Kay said...

I'm a little confused by your #6. What is the difference between "check off (21%) and write a check mark (4%)?" Could you straighten me out on that?
I love the concept you have traced! How creative and real! Blog on!

Sasha said...

Hey Kay! Good catch. The four percent number in number six refers to people who make an "x" next to done accomplishments. I accidentally typed "check." Thanks for pointing it out!

Joan Hawley said...

What fun! I keep my To Do list in my head, too lazy to write it down most times.

A friend of a friend came up with her after To Do list and calls it a Ta Done list. She proclaims 'Ta Done' just like 'Ta Da'. I like it.

I do a Ta Done list at the end of each year to list my business accomplishments so I can see that I actually did make progress that year.


LouAnne said...

Amazing blog! I do daily lists in a fat 3"x5" spiral notebook and I've kept them from the early 1980's when I started. If I look back sometimes a particular day comes alive for me. Lots has happened in the 20 plus years since I started the habit. My parents have died; husband has almost died a couple times. Kids have graduated from high schoo, college and married. 7 grandchildren have been added to our lives. Silly side benefit for me is I can look back and recall just when I got my hair cut! We all have so much info thrown at us these days, I do not know how anyone can live without lists.

Alaskan_Chickies said...

I have an "I Knocked it Off the List" song to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell. I'm just bizarre like that.

Leeanthro said...

When I make a list for my husband, he puts big check marks next to what he's done. I come back and cross through them. I always laugh at how we are different in that way!

serendipity said...

Check off, "x" off, cross items off the list?.. any other notations we make on our lists?...well, here's mine:
Sometimes an item on my to-do-list has two steps involved.
If I tackle the 1st step, I place a "/" next to it. When I tackle the 2nd step, I place a "\" next to it. The combination of the 2 marks make a "x". yipee, all done! Full credit.

To anal, huh? guess I like to get credit for large items that are partially done!!

Also, I put a large circle next to the top-priority items, I put a large circle to the left of it. When I compelte the top-priority item & put an "x" in the circle, I feel like I get some kinda bonus point! oh,, how ssssatisfying it is.

Anyone out there do similar things?