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Master the Art of the To-Do List by Understanding How They Fail

https://lifehacker.com/master-the-art-of-the-to-do-list-by-understanding-how-t-5967563

lifehacker.com

Master the Art of the To-Do List by Understanding How They Fail
The to-do list is an inescapable, age-old productivity tool. It is our very human attempt to create order in our disorderly lives and an expression of our ability to impose self-control. Most of us, including to-do list haters, keep one, and so do 63% of professionals, according to a LinkedIn survey released earlier this year.

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Dealing with to-do lists

Dealing with to-do lists

The common struggles to conquer our to-do lists:

  • 41% of to­-do items are never completed.
  • 50% of completed to-­do items are done within a day.
  • 18% of completed to­-do items are done within an hour.
  • 10% of completed to­-do items are done within a minute.
  • 15% of the items done started as to-do items.

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Too many to-do's

Too many to-do's

Most of us put way too much stuff on our lists. And that puts us on the path to failure.

Overstuffing our lists causes a continuous thrum of worry in our heads. And the worry that results from having too many conflicting goals causes our productivity as well as our physical and mental health to suffer.

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How we're making to-do lists

How we're making to-do lists

We're just not good at constructing our to-do lists. It's not as simple as it looks. 

Many of us aren't any good at formulating the tasks on the list, failing to think through steps and plans, so that when we're faced with too many tasks and too few suggestions on how to proceed, we don't complete tasks. Remember that the to-do list string around your finger is for you to make better plans using the list.

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Too much time

Too much time

You give yourself too much time to complete the tasks on your to-do list. But the more time you give yourself to finish something, the less likely it is that you will finish in that timeframe. 

Research shows that when people do complete tasks, they are done quickly.

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Interruptions and change

Interruptions and change

We can't predict the many interruptions that happen in our day. 

The most common reason for failure to get through a to-do list relates to unplanned tasks, such as unscheduled calls, e-mails, and meetings. 

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Improve your to-do list making

  • Make more specific, actionable plans. 
  • Don't micromanage your tasks, or you'll feel unable to make adjustments.
  • Give yourself earlier deadlines. 
  • Prioritize.  It's easier to focus on 5 things and get them out of the way.
  • Be realistic about what you can do in a day.
  • Remember that interruptions will pop up.
  • Record and celebrate your small wins.

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To-Do Lists: The Right Way To Write

Studies show that our mind performs better when we use written to-do lists. Here are some ways to make them more effective:

  1. List entries should be detailed, having a clear purpose.
  2. Paper and pen lists, preferably in a dairy, work best.
  3. Make the work schedule realistic, factoring in all the time that is wasted gossiping or on social media.
  4. Do not list heavy, unworkable projects(A: Climb Mount Everest) as they would never be done. Break them into small, actionable items.

Writing The List In The Morning

Although it might feel natural to create your to-do list first thing in the morning, it's too late.
Writing the list at the end of the day allows you to leave work behind and tra...

Including Too Many Tasks

Ideally, create a ‘top three’ tasks at the beginning of your to-do list. 

Long lists are a problem because most people aren’t aware that “we only have about three to six good hours of work in us each day.”

People also tend to underestimate how long a task takes. 

Including Someday Items

Aspirational tasks, like writing a book, don’t belong on a to-do list; instead, create a separate bucket list. 

Daily to-do lists should be focused. If you have a big project you want to complete, you can put it on your to-do list if you chunk it out into smaller, more attainable tasks.

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To-Do Lists

Your to-do list can be a tool that guides you through your work, or it can be a big fat pillar of undone time bombs taunting you and your unproductive inadequacy.

If the instructions are c...

The two modes

At any point during the workday, you are in one of these modes:
  • When a project or task comes up, the steps you need to take start to form in your mind. Now you're in thinking/Boss mode. 
  • Your to-do list is a collection of those orders, which your Assistant personality will later pick up and do.
Write down the instructions in such a way that your Assistant self can just do them without having to think - or stress. 

Put Items That You're Definitely Doing

Instead of letting tasks you're not quite committed to loiter on your to-do list until you're sick of looking at them, move them off to a separate list, a holding area for Someday/Maybe items. 

Only concrete actions you're committed to completing should live on your to-do list.