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

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

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

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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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Writing The List In The Morning

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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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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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Multitasking is killing your productivity

 44% of work distractions are self-inflicted and another 23% come from emails.

That means you have complete control to cut out (or at ...

Single-task benefits
  1. When you work on one thing at a time, you tend to work on the right things, because you have to plan your tasks.
  2. When you single-task you accomplish more in less time with less stress. Intentionally focusing on one task at a time has been proven the most efficient way to move through your to-do list.
Cut out distractions
  • Turn off notifications or at least turn on priority notifications.The time and mental focus lost in attention-switching even for a second adds up throughout the day.
  • Use two computers - one for doing work and productive things, the other to do unproductive work.
  • Only keep one tab open at time

    It’s a concrete way to make sure that you’re only working on what you intentionally decided to be working on.

  • Use several separate desktop spaces as an alternative to one tab. One for communication, the other for different projects planned for the day.

  • Work offline whenever possible.

  • Schedule your email time

    Handle any emails that will take 2-minutes or less. Add everything else to your to-do list to focus on later.

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