Want to get things done? Forget about to-do lists!
While lists may be helpful for remembering what we intend to do, they don’t actually get anything done!
Do you have a to-do list? How many items are on it? Do you feel like you’ll never finish it? Do you think if you just got organized enough you could get everything done?
Don’t count on it.
Why? Because we have lives that are already busy. We can’t stop doing all the usual things to squeeze in those new things on our list. And how many of us discover after our daily routine that we have extra time we don’t know what to do with? While lists may be helpful for remembering what we intend to do, they don’t actually get anything done!
Here’s what’s wrong with to-do lists:
1. They’re out of date
They aren’t current. There are lots of new things that aren’t on there yet, and there are old things that should no longer be there, but are. When we look at our lists, we're not seeing an accurate account of items to be done.
2. They’re too long
A to-do list isn’t the right place to list all your wishes and dreams. It shouldn’t be a storage spot for all your most creative ideas. Yes, have lists for those things, but don’t call them to-do lists and don’t expect to accomplish them when you already have twenty-four hours of tasks that need doing right now.
3. The items aren’t specific actions
Tasks aren’t broken down to the next simple action required. They’re too general and too vague. The result is that every time we look our list, we see that something needs to be done—but we don’t feel like taking the time right then to figure out what exactly. So the task just stays on the list—undone.
4. It’s not clear how much time a given task will take
A single entry that takes one line to write could take two minutes (a phone call) or two hours (a proposal). You don’t get an accurate picture of your workload.
5. They’re not geared to how much uncommitted time is available
Remember, the average person has ten weeks’ worth of tasks on their to-do list. What is the point of that? Every time you look at it you feel inadequate and overwhelmed. This is what leads to procrastination.
6. They’re not integrated into your planner/calendar
We’re accustomed to consulting our calendars for the day’s activities. A to-do list is sitting somewhere else, passively waiting for us to remember to go look at it. It requires extra steps to scan the list, pick out priorities, weigh the choices, then try to squeeze them into our day.
Here’s a better way to get things done: Forget about to-do lists!
When some new task presents itself, instead of putting it on a list, immediately find a time in your calendar, block that time, and decide to act on it at that time.
1.Estimate how long the task will take
2. Break the task down into individual steps if need be
3. Take into consideration whatever deadlines are attached to the task or step.
Then use your planner/calendar:
1. Find an open time slot in your planner/calendar that fits the time and deadline requirements
2. Enter an appointment and schedule a to-do action for that task.
3. When the time comes, just do it!
Benefits of scheduling to-do actions right in your planner:
1. You don’t have to wonder each morning “What should I do today?” You don’t have to re-think your entire schedule every day.
2. You know you won’t forget something important because everything’s in your calendar. You don’t have to constantly check your to-do list to remind yourself what needs to be done.
3. If your schedule unexpectedly changes you can move tasks around without losing track of them. If you find some things keep getting rescheduled until “later” you may eventually decide they’re not important enough to do at all!
4. You don’t feel the pressure of seeing a long list and feeling like you should be doing everything right NOW. You know you’ve got it in the schedule. Once you’ve done everything on the schedule for a particular day, you can relax knowing you’re on track, OR, if you’re feeling energized you can look ahead to see if there’s something you want to do now to free up a bit of time later!
You’ll be amazed how much you’ll accomplish!
Wake up every day being in control of your tasks and your time -- knowing that you’ll get done what you need to do!
Learn more about the author, Elaine Quinn.
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- to-do list
- Elaine Quinn
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