The problem with overstuffed to-do lists isn’t just the total time required to execute their contents, but the fact that each new commitment generates its own ongoing administrative demands—emails, chats, check-in calls, “quick” meetings. That’s the overhead tax. Before long, knowledge workers find themselves spending the bulk of their time talking about work instead of actually doing it. They then fall further behind as their to-do list lengthens and the overhead tax grows. This isn’t just an unproductive approach; it can be downright deranging.

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