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How to Make Your To-Do List Doable

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.

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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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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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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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Ruthless prioritization

It means deciding not to do things you'd really like to do. It also means deciding what's the most important task even when everything on your list feels crucial.

But if you can prioritize...

Consolidate All of Your Tasks Into a Single Source

To-dos arrive from a variety of sources. Your boss sends you an email, you get a Slack message from IT, a bill arrives in the mail, or a coworker asks for a favor in the hallway.

In order to prioritize your task list efficiently, you need a master to-do list that contains all of the tasks you need to prioritize and complete from all of those sources.

Analyze Your Task List

Go through your list, review each task, and decide what you want to do with it. You have 4 options:

  • Do: complete the task now
  • Defer: complete it later
  • Delegate: assign it to someone else
  • Delete: remove it from your list

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The weekly review

It’s dedicated time to think about the past week, reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and plan for the week ahead. 

It’s a chance to get aligned with your goals and ensure ...

The 3 parts of a weekly review
  • Get Clear: process all your loose-ends.
  • Get Current: make sure all your items are up to date.
  • Get Creative: come up with new ideas to improve how you live and work.
Benefits of weekly reviews
  • You gain an objective view of the week: a weekly review forces you to practice intention by taking time to pause and reflect as you consider what you did versus what you planned to do.
  • You become proactive in planning: a weekly review isn’t only a retrospective, but a prospective too. It lets you run through the upcoming Monday to Friday proactively.

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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.

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.

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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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.

The philosophy of working "smart"

... is to maximize your productivity when you are working so that you can get more stuff done in shorter periods of time.

By working smarter, you'll find yourself with more time in th...

Find the to-do list app that work for you

The best one for you depends entirely on your working style and personal preferences.

You can use a physical notebook around everywhere you go, but it's easier to use a to-do list app or tool that syncs across all your devices. That way, you can access your to-do items whenever and wherever you need to, whether you're at your desk, in a meeting, or on a business trip.

Prepare in advance

Write out your to-do list the day before:

  • You'll free your time to dive right into your to-do list in the morning - one of the most productive times of day.
  • It can help you spot obstacles ahead of time and prepare accordingly.
  • Knowing what you have going on well in advance could help you relax and sleep better the night before.

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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 ite...
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.

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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Something to look forward to

Give yourself something to look forward to

Set up a lunch for next week that makes you anticipate good things to come. People may be slow to reply since it's Friday afternoon, b...

Organize the week

Go through next week's calendar and plan out the entire week

Set reminders (mail and phone) for all the meetings, deadlines, and to-do items. Appoint to every task a specific time slot.  You'll clear your mind of that nagging feeling that you forgot something and have a truly relaxing weekend, leaving you happier on Monday.

Shake up your routine

Make a list of your typical distractions, the habits and stressors that keep you from starting the workweek with a bang. 

Make a list and then write down what you will do instead. Create a new routine that's uplifting and energizing. Put it where you will see it first thing Monday morning.

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Getting Things Done: the basics
  • Capture. Write down everything you need to do.
  • Clarify. Break down each task into an actionable next step. 
  • Organize. Move each of those actionable ta...
The 2-minute rule
If a task takes less than 2 minutes, then do it now.

If the effort to keep remembering a task is more than just getting it out of the way now, then do it.

Fixing small tasks
  • Fixing things is empowering. Our confidence increases or decreases based on our ability to make progress. 
  • Any progress builds momentum (and your mood): No matter how small the task is, crossing it off your to-do list gives you a boost of momentum and enhances your mood.
  • Small steps turn into habits: When a task is easy to do and quickly completed, it’s much easier to turn it into a habit.

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