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July 10, 2015 7:00 AM EDT
Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

The to-do list is something I talked about in my webinar on productivity, specifically, I argued that to-do lists were evil from a productivity perspective. This is something New York Times science writer John Tierney and psychologist Roy F. Baumeister expand upon in “A brief history of the to-do list,” the third chapter of their book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

“The first step in self-control is to set a clear goal.”

The problem isn’t a lack of goals, however, it’s too many of them.

Even the great Ben Franklin fell victim to having too many goals.

But the virtues were often in conflict with one another.

“The result of conflicting goals is unhappiness instead of action,” Tierney and Baumeister write, arguing the byproduct of this is that you worry more, get less done, and your physical health suffers.

The takeaway? Skip the to-do list and schedule your time. If you must have a to-do list, keep it short.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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