These days, there are all kinds of ways to get things done, and many people find that a to-do list is just what they need to stay on task. But not every mind works the same way and not every t0-do list will work for everyone.
If you want to hack your to-do list and make it custom-fit for you and your life, you have to consider a few different things. Do you want to use a traditional notepad, or would you rather go electronic? How seriously techie are you? How can you create the ideal tool for yourself?
Coach Tip: Google Sheets offers several templates that will help you get things done – check them out here. Other apps I love for getting things done are Google Calendar, Evernote, IdeaGrowr and Trello. And for my editorial calendar and daily schedule, I use a manually-written teacher’s planner that I’ve modified to fit my needs. 🙂
How do you get things done? What kind of to-do list do you think could work best for you?
Okay, so we know that to do lists help you track your activities and manage your time. Then again, what happens when your lists grow out of control because they’re too long or there are too many of them?
Maybe the solution is using a different kind of list. Take a look at your options for designing an effective to do list, along with suggestions for using any productivity tool more effectively.
TO-DO LIST HACKS: How to Build a To-Do List That Works for You
1. Limit the length. Many experts recommend keeping your list as short as 3 to 5 items. Promptly cross off any tasks you complete. Move projects you’re unlikely to get to off to a separate wish list.
2. Consider categories. If you prefer longer lists, categories are one way to stay organized. Separate business and personal items. Group similar activities like shopping, reading, or making phone calls.
3. Juggle timelines. Maybe your projects are interrelated with structured stages and strict deadlines. Calendar functions and color-coding could help you strategize.
4. Add detail. When you need more than a simple list, create a full log. Build in supplementary information like daily summaries, phone numbers, and websites you visit frequently.
5. Block out your time. Do you tend to waste small blocks of time? Planning your day in 30-minute increments could help you spot when you’ll have 10 minutes free for filing or checking messages.
6. Choose paper or digital. You may already know that GTD stands for Get Things Done, and there are a growing number of GTD apps to choose from. On the other hand, paper journals are still popular too. What matters is using them consistently.
TO DO LIST HACKS: How to Use Any To Do List Effectively
1. Set priorities. A successful list lets you see your major responsibilities at a glance and approach them systematically. Arrange your list so your top concerns stand out.
2. Distinguish between urgency and importance. Prioritizing raises some tricky questions. Picking up your dry cleaning before the shop closes in 10 minutes is urgent. Spending time with your friends is less time sensitive, but contributes more to your wellbeing. Pay attention to essentials that may otherwise be bumped.
3. Automate routine tasks. Eliminate chores that robots and computers can do for you. Electronic banking frees up your time and gives you peace of mind knowing that your bills have been paid on time.
4. Build in leeway. Studies show that most adults underestimate the time it takes to complete many everyday tasks. Give yourself an extra 10 minutes between appointments. Assume that a new dinner recipe may take you 20 minutes to pull together even if the cookbook claims you can do it in 10.
5. Take a break. Put adequate rest and play on your list each day. It’s time well spent when it keeps you in top shape and prevents burnout.
6. Expect surprises. However comprehensive your list is, you’re sometimes going to run into circumstances that you couldn’t predict. Be prepared to shuffle your other obligations to the next week if your car breaks down or you win a trip to a tropical resort.
7. Evaluate your progress. Hold onto your lists so you can review them periodically. Repeat the practices that simplify your life and fix the patterns that are causing you delays.
Keep your personal and professional life in order. Whether you prefer writing in a notebook with colored markers or downloading the latest productivity app to multiple devices, there’s a to do list that will help you to stay on top of your game.
Okay, now it’s your turn! What are your best to-do list hacks? Share them in the comments.
“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” ~Tony Robbins
Being productive feels good. On those days that I manage to do all the things on my excessively long to-do list, I just feel amazing. But then, there are those days where I don’t quite hit the mark, and I find myself feeling less than stellar.
I love my work, and though I occasionally have a tendency to take on too much, I still keep plugging–most days. And then, there are those days where I just feel like I can’t get anything done. What about you?
Do you ever feel like your productivity level is slipping a bit?
Maybe you thought you’d get four projects done today, but you completed only two. You ask yourself where the time goes and you’ve noticed you’re feeling disappointed in yourself and how you perform at work or at home.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone–this is all part of being human. But there are some simple things you can do to increase your efficiency and get more out of your life.
Hit the ground running. Be ready to go to work as soon as you arrive, whether you’re commuting an hour to your corporate job or 10 steps to a home office.
Using the example of work, visualize yourself on the way into the office, and then think about what it’s going to be like when you get there. Do you have three large stacks of paperwork to do? Articles to write, research to do? Phone calls to return?
Think about what you’ll do first. Perhaps you can complete that project you started last Friday with just a couple more hours of work. Put your mind ahead of your body’s arrival so you can get started quickly.
Learn to anticipate. When you consider what will be happening next, you’ll be ready to meet whatever challenge is occurring at the time.
For example, at home, you might think, “I know the kids will be hungry for a snack. I’ll get out that fruit salad from yesterday and give them glasses of juice right away so I can get to the laundry.”
Anticipate what might happen, and have a plan.
Develop a method of keeping track of tasks that works for you. Whether it’s speaking your list into your smartphone, jotting down things to do in your calendar, or carrying a spiral notebook, having a running list to look at or listen to will help you get more things done.
For me, it’s all about Google Calendar–I can have multiple, color-coded calendars in one, and I can share various calendars with various parties. In my case, I have a personal calendar as well as various work/editorial calendars, among others. All sync to my phone, and for the really important stuff, I set reminders to help me remember–sometimes several.
Whichever method you choose, be sure it’s convenient and works for you. Having some way to check-off items is helpful so you can tell at a glance which tasks you’ve completed and which ones remain–this also increases your sense of accomplishment and can help encourage you to keep on keeping on.
If you don’t already have a calendar or task manager tool in place, try a couple of methods until you find the list that’s easiest for you to use. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. Just find something that fits in your life and go with it.
Politely tell others you don’t “have a minute.” If you’re at work and people stop by your office to chat, feel free to say, “I’m sorry. I can’t talk right now but I’d love to have lunch today and hear more about this.”
On that same note, remember that you are not Superman or Superwoman, and that you have the right to say no, sometimes. For example, in my case, I might need to push back a deadline or explain that my schedule is too full to be on that committee or to plan that party.
I’m not going to lie. This one is hard for me. I find myself saying yes and just “making stuff happen.” But at times, this attitude makes my life more difficult in a number of ways, including lack of sleep, lack of personal time and more.
So sometimes, we all have to be strong and explain that we just don’t have time–and if possible, we can offer alternative options, but if not, we just have to politely say no.
Keep meetings brief. If you’re in a position to have control over meetings at work, make a goal to meet for 30 minutes max. If you go into a meeting with a written agenda, you’ll be ready to cover your points quickly.
Personally, I have a weekly meeting with my team at Scrubs & Suits. We always try to come in with an agenda, and since we’re a creative and inspired bunch, we have a tendency to get off-track and the meetings can run long. But when I remind everyone early in the meeting that we are limited to a certain period of time, we manage to stay on track a bit more effectively.
So, when you’re leading a meeting, involve the group in helping to manage the time. And, if you’re not leading but you’re attending the meeting, you can do your part by helping the group to stay focused.
Reinforce your efforts to achieve.Praise yourself each day. Maybe you completed a work project you’ve been working on for several weeks or cooked a great meal for friends and family.
Recognize the efforts you make to complete tasks. You deserve it, and you’re worth it–and you don’t need to wait for others to notice. Celebrate yourself, and stay positive about your efforts and achievements.
Allow yourself plenty of time in the morning. If you need an hour to shower, have breakfast and get your task list written for the day, then get up early enough to have your full hour.
And if you work at home, don’t think you’re exempt from this idea. You should still get up every morning (most mornings, anyway) and get ready as you would if you worked in an office–whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or you work from your home office, something about “getting ready for work” will change your mindset and help to increase your productivity levels (and you won’t have to hide when the UPS guy shows up.)
So, how about you? What are your best tips for increasing productivity and eliminating procrastination from your life? Let’s discuss! Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.