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

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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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.
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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.

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.