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The Surprising Way People Are Using Instagram (Yes, Instagram) to Stay Productive

updated Jun 26, 2019
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I have a thing for to-do lists. They are right up there with dumplings, Law & Order: SVU, and coffee when it comes to my main interests in life. Sure, they help me get things done, but I also find the process of writing them grounding—soothing, even. I use them to keep track of work, but also to remind myself to stay on top of my finances and jot down some things I’m thankful for every day.

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Lately, I (and a lot of other people, too) have even been sharing them on Instagram—and it turns out, posting them publicly is great for accountability.

About a month ago, I started posting on my Instagram stories most mornings to share what I was working on for that day. This was usually a combination of work, errands, and fun tasks, a mix of everything from stopping by the dry cleaners to writing stories to cleaning out my email inbox. People seemed to love it. Followers responded and said it made them feel more motivated, or that they found it really interesting to see what a freelancer’s life was like day-to-day.

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On one hand, I was surprised. Doesn’t everyone write daily to-do lists? I asked myself. But then I remembered that I started posting them because I saw other freelancers doing the same thing and, yes, I had found it super interesting, too. Something about having a little peek into someone’s day-to-day is entertaining—not unlike seeing the contents of a stranger’s purse. The details are mundane, yes, but you still can’t help but be curious. Curiosity aside, though, posting my to-do lists also had a main benefit for me: It made me more productive. And I’m not the only one.

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Why Instagram To-Do Lists Are Making People More Productive

One of the first people I saw posting their to-do lists on Instagram was Austen Tosone, a freelance writer and fashion and beauty content creator. Austen tells me that she began posting the lists as a way to answer her followers’ questions about her freelance career.

“I get lots of DMs about freelance life, since more people than ever are looking towards remote/freelance work in place of 9-5 jobs, and I figured a great way to answer the common ‘What do you do all day?’ question would be to actually share my day-to-day schedule on my Instagram stories,” Austen says, noting that the response has been great and that it helps her have accountability when it comes to finishing tasks. This factor of transparency and accountability is exactly why posting to-do lists on Instagram stories might work for anyone, freelancer or not.

As for me, I don’t post my to-do lists on Instagram as frequently as I used to (mainly because sometimes I forget to in the morning and somehow, a 5 p.m. to-do list just isn’t as engaging), but when I do, it’s almost always because I need the accountability. While it’s easy to put tasks on a paper to-do list that you realistically know you won’t get to, it’s harder to shout them to the world.

Kristin Corpuz, a freelance beauty/travel editor and writer, tells me she started posting her to-do lists for a similar reason to Austen—to answer the frequent questions about what she does all day, and to provide insight to other people who might be wanting to freelance. Kristin doesn’t only post her daily to-do lists, though, she also posts her daily or weekly goals, an interesting take on the accountability aspect of posting tasks publicly.

“I feel like putting my goals for a day, or week, or even a year or more on paper suddenly makes those goals a lot more tangible. It’s one thing to keep those goals to myself, but if I put them out there for the world to see, I feel a lot more responsible for the work that I promised myself I would complete,” Kristin says.

These days, I don’t just see Kristin and Austen posting their to-do lists on Instagram, but dozens of other people. It’s a trend that clearly is sticking around for a while, and it’s no surprise: Something about the habit clearly works for person posting the to-do lists, and people certainly seem to love reading the to-do lists, too—even if they would never post their own.

So if you need some accountability, or you think people might be curious about your day-to-day (and they probably are more than you think), try it sometime. It just might help you finally get motivated to go to the post office, or send that invoice. As for me, I still will probably post my to-do list on Instagram every now and then, but don’t ask me to give up my pen-and-paper to-do list anytime soon.