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

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

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

7

Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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.

4 more ideas

Get Your System Under Control

Create 3 different to-do lists:

  • Important but non-time sensitive projects list
  • Items that need to be completed today list
  • Not-to-do list
The Not-to-do List

The purpose of this list is to know the tasks the are not important and are not worthwhile. There are a lot of things worthy of your time and getting rid of those unnecessary tasks will give you more time to complete more important tasks.

How to Make Your Don't Do List
  • Reevaluate your to-do list: Identify the goals and determine how the items in your list impact your aims.
  • Create your not to-do list: Cut those unimportant tasks in your to-do list and paste it on your no to-do list. By doing this, you must accept that your time is limited and commit on letting them go.
  • Evaluate new tasks: From then on, once a new assignment arrives, evaluate its importance and the effects of it with your goals.
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.

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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.

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Make planning a habit
Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting the alarm for you...

Align your to-do list with goals
  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.
Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

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The urgency bias
The urgency bias

We usually give priority to unimportant tasks when there is a sense of urgency around them.

We’re actually psychologically wired to put aside important tasks in favor of ta...

Why it’s hard to ignore urgent tasks

A few explanations as to why it’s so hard to reject urgent tasks:

  • The completion bias. Our brains crave the reward we get from checking off small to-dos from our list.
  • Tunnel vision: When we get overwhelmed by the things we have to do, we choose to act on those most available to us; these are usually emails, calls, meetings, and other low-friction tasks.
Urgency puts us into reactive mode

The problem is that we’re continually bombarded with urgent work: emails, meetings, calls, and instead of being in control of our time and attention, we respond and act on someone else’s priorities.

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Personal Operations Category
  • Task management. This one is most commonly taught and includes systems like Getting Things Done.
  • Knowledge management. This is embodied in systems like productivity educa...
What's on your plate

Prioritizing tasks at work involves getting all your tasks and commitments in one place.  Take a piece of paper and make a list of everything you need to get done. Questions to help you:

  • Do you have commitments to others like your boss, partner, kids, or clients?
  • Do you have anything you need to submit? 
  • Do you have any financial tasks that need to get done? 
  • Do you have any planning that needs to get done? 
  • Do you have any administrative tasks? Legal, insurance, staffing, or training?
  • Do you have any professional development tasks that need to get done? Training, areas to research, skills to develop, books to read or study, or classes to take?
Brainstorm your goals

Find your goals. Without them, it is impossible to prioritize your tasks. Try to set 90-day goals, which is long enough to make meaningful progress. Questions to prompt goals:

  • What’s the one thing you could do that makes everything else easier or unnecessary?
  • If you were giving advice to someone else in your position, what 1-3 things would you tell them to focus on?
  • What do you want to have accomplished over the next five years?

8 more ideas

Lists to Organize Yourself Perfectly
  • Vision List - consists of everything you want to experience in life.
  • 100 Days List - all the task waiting for you in the next 100 day.
  • Personal Sprint Backlog ...
The Not-to-do List

A list of tasks you simply don't do: You delete them, delegate them, outsource them or simply say no when they try to find their way on your to-do list:

  • Things you want to say no
  • Distractions from being productive
  • Regular tasks you can delete, delegate, or outsource
  • Other people's responsibility
  • Small projects that get way on bigger projects
  • Emotionally draining tasks
  • Bad habits
  • Stuff that doesn't need to be done
  • Things that are out of control
  • Everything else that you can systematically eliminate and bring a bigger margin into your life.
Not-to-do List and Templates

When people ask you personally or via email something that you are struggling to decline, use templates. Templates are standard response you use to everyone. With the use of these, you refuse them politely without offending them. Also,  it saves you time and there's less emotional pressure compared to writing a decline every time.

one more idea

There are no productivity hacks
There are no productivity hacks

Habits and work systems can produce the best return on your time.

Getting more work done is about knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to get it done in order to maxi...

Unimportant tasks are really just distractions

Urgent but unimportant tasks = distractions.

Urgent tasks put us into constant “reply mode.” Important work is related to planned tasks that move us closer to our goals.

Interruptions break your flow

Anytime you are pulled away from your tasks, it takes time to readjust to them when you jump back in (sometimes it can take up to 25 minutes).

Interruptions (notifications, loud noises, social media, checking email etc.) harm your concentration.

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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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