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"Nobody is too busy, it's just a matter of priorities."
Are you one of those people who every evening write a 3-pages long to-do list hoping you can get everything done, but it never happens? Or maybe you constantly underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a specific task and you always end up disappointed in yourself?
What about your jam-packed schedule? Is it giving you anxiety or maybe you’ve already accepted the impossibility of getting work done well and on time?
If this is how you feel about your to-do list, then continue to read this post because I have a solution to your never-ending, anxiety-provoking to-do list. And you will love it!
So without further ado, let’s dive in!
1 STEP: Keep Your To-Do List Realistic
Writing a never-ending and extremely detailed to-do list is very tempting. I’m not going to question that. But at the same time, doing so is a prescription for failure and the best way to disappoint yourself. Because if your to-do list is 3 or more pages long there’s no way you will be able to complete all the tasks done in one day.
As a result, your inability to do the impossible will make you feel defeated and discouraged. Which is kind of ironic, considering the root cause of your disappointment.
The solution to this problem is to write a realistic and manageable to-do list that will guide you through your day in a productive manner. You want to feel in control of your time, not overwhelmed by your workload- and a practical to-do list will provide you with peace of mind. So when writing your to-do list, make sure it’s not too long. A great way to do that is to use the 1-3-5 rule that not only helps you to avoid planning fallacy but also maximize your productivity levels. This rule states that you should keep your daily to-do list to just nine items:
- ONE big thing
- THREE medium things
- FIVE small things
If you’ve never tried this approach, I highly recommend you doing so because it’s a life-changer!
2 STEP: Simplify Your Tasks
The next step in writing an epic to-do list is to prioritize and simplify your tasks. By keeping things (tasks) simple you avoid adding unnecessary work to your full schedule and wasting your time on “mediocre” activities that do not move you closer to your long-term goals. As a result, you can focus on what’s truly important and what pays you the most.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Even though this famous quote from Albert Einstein was closely referred to the science, it works well in pretty much every sphere of life. Because by simplifying your tasks you avoid unnecessary actions, decision fatigue and complexity trap – the famous three behaviors that effectively block success and prevent you from living your best life.
Simplicity is the key to a successful life both professional and personal. You want to focus on taking action, not on planning on endless possibilities and overthinking unimportant details that are not really making any difference. Only by taking action, you can create desired results.
From my personal experience, one of the best methods to simplify your work and life, in general, is The Pareto Principle that states that 20% of your actions or activities produce 80% of the outcomes.
That means that if you manage to identify that 20% correctly you will spend more time doing the right things and as a consequence, you will see better results sooner compared to your current working approach. If you want to know how does the Pareto Principle apply to time management, John Rapton explains this perfectly in his post that you can read here.
3 STEP: Set The Right Daily Priorities
My next tip to create an effective to-do list has a lot to do with the concept of working smarter not harder, because I want to talk about setting the right daily priorities.
Your success in achieving your long-term goals and mastering your to-do list lies in setting the right daily priorities and getting them knocked out in the early morning, as soon as you can when your mind is fresh.
When you have a lot of deadlines to meet it’s easy to mix up priorities or even forget to do important things at work. It happens because when we have a significant amount of tasks to do it may seem that everything is a priority. And when each task seems to be equally important chaos and confusion prevails. To avoid that you should identify your top priorities, write them down and place them in front of you so you don’t forget them.
When setting your daily priorities, your daily Most Important Tasks (MITs) focus on choosing 3 to 5 daily activities that lead to your key goal or goals so that you know you’re focusing on the right things and you’re moving toward your main goals.
4 STEP: Mix Productive Tasks With Restorative Tasks
We love to think that we can be ultra-productive, insanely motivated, and highly energetic with what we do and what needs to be done all day long. While this Perpetuum Mobile kind of productivity would be great, it’s not within the reach of anyone. So instead of striving for the impossible ideal of non-existing 24/7 productivity mode, you should focus on managing your energy levels during the day.
Because let’s face it, our productive flow and energy levels change during the day. We are (most of us) most productive in the morning, then we experience a mid-afternoon slump that if managed properly can turn into a productive flow. Therefore if we want to manage our time effectively and make the most of our day we should consider our ever-changing energy levels.
The best way to do that is to balance your time with energy-giving activities and energy-taking activities so that you give yourself the opportunity to restore your energy and recharge your batteries after finishing a difficult task. So basically all you need to do when creating your epic to-do list is to mix productive tasks with restorative tasks.
For instance, after accomplishing difficult, complex, and energy-taking tasks (writing a report, administrative work, responding to emails) you should focus on something simple, pleasurable, and energy-giving tasks (physical activity, Mindfulness practice, delicious coffee break, listen to a podcast). This simple but extremely effective approach will help you to manage your productivity and energy levels properly so that you avoid falling into the procrastination trap caused by stress and tiredness.
5 STEP: Schedule A Midday Reset To Reboot Your Energy
The mid-afternoon slump is perfectly normal, natural, and pretty common. But it doesn’t mean that you should give in to it and fall into procrastination-purgatory mode. Because that would only increase your feelings of fatigue, sluggishness, feeling run down. Not to mention that the tasks on your to-do list will not just disappear only because your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced and you feel disinterested in everything. But with the right plan in place, it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are many different ways you can beat the afternoon fatigue and shift into action mode again and one of them is movement. So if you feel a sudden attack of sleepiness in the afternoon and you cannot control your sugar cravings, it means that you need midday to refresh your mind and reboot your energy – in other words, you need an active break.
There’s a tendency to think that taking frequent work breaks ruins workflow and triggers procrastination. When in fact, the opposite is true. Several studies have shown that taking regular breaks at work is a powerful strategy for increasing self-motivation, boosting productivity levels and accelerating your results.
6 Step: Commit To Your To-Do List Schedule
Last but definitely not least tip when creating an epic to-do list is to commit to your goals and get the things that you’ve planned and scheduled for a day done. Because, here’s the thing: It’s easy to write an epic to-do list, it’s much harder to take action and get things done. Even the best planning method will not give you results. You can get what you want only by taking massive action on your goals. So you need to stop the endless planning and just start.
Action is the remedy to fear of failure, lack of motivation and self-limiting beliefs. So once you’ve created your epic to-do list, it’s time to make a commitment to yourself and take action. It’s your level of commitment to what you’re doing that is going to decide your level of success in it.
Holding yourself accountable is more than just being responsible for your actions and the consequences they have – it means being proactive (actively creating your life) and taking action before you feel like it. Because waiting for motivation to strike you before you put yourself in motion leads to procrastination. And procrastination is the thief of time.
Feeling insanely motivated and inspired before you take action is wonderful, but extremely rare. Especially when it comes to long-term goals that you have to work towards during a long period of time. So instead of waiting for motivation to strike you, figure out what you have to do to hold yourself accountable for the choices you make and the consequences they bring, master your self-discipline and commit to daily work to reach your goals.
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- Use best time management apps to keep you on schedule at work
- Organize your day around your goals
- Use the Eisenhower Box to identify your top priorities and avoid the urgency trap
- Create and maintain a powerful morning routine
- Develop morning rituals to make your motivation flow effortlessly
- Create motivation through action
- Start before you are ready
- Improve your decision-making process
- Overcome your self-limiting beliefs that block your progress
- Balance productivity and happiness
- Cultivate self-care routine
- The 3 x 8 rule for Perfectly Balanced Day & Life
- Create rituals to induce a flow state
and master your EPIC to-do list!