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How to transform your to-do list into a productivity power tool

https://www.fastcompany.com/90473217/how-to-transform-your-to-do-list-into-a-productivity-power-tool

fastcompany.com

How to transform your to-do list into a productivity power tool
A to-do list can be a helpful tool for running your day, but it can also be a place where tasks go to linger and die. If you end the day with things undone or if you keep carrying tasks forward to the next day or week, you need a to-do list makeover-a reality check on how you spend your time, as well as your expectations.

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In need of a makeover

A to-do list can be helpful but is often not used successfully. If you end the day with things undone or if you regularly carry tasks forward, you need a to-do list makeover.

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Get clear on what's important

  • Most people are unaware of their priorities. Our priorities are the things that are most important to us right now. Not serving them is non-negotiable.

  • People are capable of having two or three priorities. More priorities leave them scattered and unfulfilled, filling their time with stuff that doesn't matter.

  • Once you know your priorities, everything on your to-do list should serve them. Look out for the 'shoulds' - they are not serving your priorities.

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Give tasks a value

Look over your to-do list and assign every task a value, such as a dollar-per-hour amount that you might have to pay someone else to do it. Score tasks from $10 per hour for administrative tasks up to $10,000 per hour for high-level strategy and sales-related tasks.

By giving dollar-per-hour values to specific tasks, you ensure you use your resources correctly.

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Measure a task’s urgency

Break down a master to-do list into four sections:

  • Urgent and important: These tasks should be done today.
  • Not urgent but important: Schedule these tasks for later.
  • Urgent and not important: These tasks should be delegated.
  • Not important and not urgent: Delete it from your list.

To move ahead of that to-do list, spend most of your time on tasks that are important but not yet urgent.

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Put the hard stuff first

We like to put the easy tasks on top of the to-do list because it feels good to finish a task. 

When you do that, you have less time for hard things. However, it is the hard stuff that serves your priorities.

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Be specific

  • Don't let your to-do list be vague, undefined, and unclear. Any action on your to-do list must have a particular outcome.
  • Consider how important each task is and what time frame you have to complete those tasks.
  • Group similar tasks together.
  • Break large tasks down into smaller steps to be completed over a period.

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Do a to-do list sprint

The hardest part is actually getting started on a task.
Ways to get started:

  • Work in sprints to see how much you can get done in one hour.
  • You can also set a timer for 15 minutes and commit to not give in to any distraction, including checking your phone.

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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.

1. Time-Blocking

Time-blocking consists of assigning individual tasks to manageable time slots.

Instead of writing out short tasks alongside hours-long tasks on your list for the day and hoping you ha...

2. If/then Lists

To set reasonable goals make a list for high-energy days and another for when you are reluctant to work. Both lists should follow an “if/then” model.

The first lists should have the more involved tasks, while the second list should feature more mindless tasks like cleaning out your inbox, organizing your desk, or even napping.

3. Eisenhower Matrix

An Eisenhower Matrix breaks a to-do list into the four categories below:
  1. Has items that are both urgent and important, is to be tackled immediately.
  2. Items that are important but not urgent, can be scheduled for a later time.
  3. Tasks deemed urgent but not important can be delegated to others if possible
  4. Tasks that are neither urgent nor important should be crossed off the list altogether.