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How to Make Your To-Do List Doable

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 clear, specific, and easily carried out, you're golden. If not, you'll get undesirable results, such as fear, procrastination, and self-loathing.

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How to Make Your To-Do List Doable

How to Make Your To-Do List Doable

https://lifehacker.com/how-to-make-your-to-do-list-doable-270404

lifehacker.com

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Key Ideas

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 clear, specific, and easily carried out, you're golden. If not, you'll get undesirable results, such as fear, procrastination, and self-loathing.

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.

Break It Down

Your to-do list is not your project list. Don't add multi-action tasks to your to-do list, such as "Clean out the office." Break projects down to smaller, easier-to-tackle subtasks.

The smaller and more atomic these subtasks are, the more doable they are. Break down tasks into five-minute increments.

Focus Only on the Next Action

When you have a multi-action task, keep only its next sequential action on your to-do list. When the task is complete, refer to your project list and add its next action to your to-do list.
At any given moment, your to-do list should contain only the next logical action for all your working projects. That's it - just one bite-sized step in each undertaking.

Use Specific, Active Verbs

When you tell yourself to do something, make it an order. 

An item such as "Acme account checkup" doesn't tell you what has to be done. Make your to-do's specific actions, such as "Phone Rob at Acme re: Q2 sales.

Include as Much Information as Possible

When formulating a to-do, the onus is on your Boss self to make it as easy as possible for your Assistant self to get the job done. 

Arm your Assistant self with all the details she needs to get your work done. 

For example, if you have to make a phone call, include the name or number.

Keep Your List Short

Just as no one wants to look at an email inbox with 2,386 messages in it, no one wants to have an endless to-do list. It's overwhelming and depressing. 

Instead, keep your to-do list under 20 items. Your to-do list should be short, to-the-point commitments that involve no more deciding as to whether you're actually serious about doing them.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Although your to-do list might have 20 items on it, the reality is that you're going to get only a couple done per day (assuming that you're not writing down things like "get up, shower, make coffee, go to work....

Make sure the most important tasks are at the very top of your list. 

Keep Your List Moving

Although my to-do list is only 20 items or so, it's 20 items that change every day. Every day, two to five tasks get checked off, and two to five tasks get added. 

Your to-do list is a working document.

Update Your List Weekly

Schedule a 20-minute meeting with yourself every Friday or Monday to review your to-do list, project list, and someday/maybe list.
Use that time to rewrite any items that aren't broken down as much as they should be, purge irrelevant items, and move the next actions from your project list to your to-do list.

Log Your Completed Tasks

Your "done" list is a great indicator of whether your to-do list is working. If more than two days go by without a new done item, it's time to revamp your to-do list and get back to best practices.

Practice Makes Perfect

90% of the work involved when you're tackling tasks that matter is the planning. 

The more you practice the art of creating effective to-do's, the faster and easier it will come to you, and the more you cross items off your list and leave the office with that delicious sense of completion.

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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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Common Reasons For Procrastination
  • Fears of not doing a specific task well enough.
  • Unpleasant feelings associated with a specific task.
  • Thinking working under pressure makes for more efficient working.
Drop Or Automate Tasks

If procrastination makes your list have too many items, find out what you can eliminate. For necessary but time-consuming tasks that don’t bring a lot of returns, consider adopting solutions that will do it for you.

Automating tasks you would otherwise be doing manually, is also very satisfying and can help you fight procrastination.

Break Tasks Down

Sometimes it seems daunting to start a project because of its scale, which is why it’s important to break tasks down into small chunks. 

Subdividing tasks allows you to keep progressing by switching tasks when you get stuck but have deadlines to meet or taking a break isn’t an option. It also allows you to circumvent boredom as you won’t get stuck in the same task.

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The One Big Thing

Instead of checking off a list of tasks, concentrating on one big thing in a day turns out to be a lot more fruitful and gratifying.

To-Do Vs Might-Do
  • A To-Do list is composed of your routine activities that continue to come up daily.
  • A Might-Do list is composed of the things you might do someday, things that are your goals and you will, in the course of time, schedule them in your calendar.
The Handy Calendar

The important, big things can be 'baked-in' your calendar, while you keep track of meetings and appointments.

The Might-Do list acts as your goals list that you will incorporate in your coming days while doing your routine work.