Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 28, 2017

Like Making To Do Lists? Stop! It Will Never Be Completed

Like Making To Do Lists? Stop! It Will Never Be Completed

It’s a common scenario: you think you’re getting yourself organized, and you write out everything you have to do. Your to-do list is about a mile long. It feels good to put it all on paper, but when is the last time you finished a long list of tasks that you had to do?

You may have been able to knock out the first few tasks, but chances are you either gave up, or you checked off things even though they weren’t done properly. Making a list can help you focus and plan how much time you need to get things done. If your list is too long, though, it can actually destroy your productivity by overwhelming you.

Making lists can help your productivity to an extent

Writing out what you need to do can help you declutter your mind, and it’ll keep you from forgetting things.[1] A great deal of productivity advice revolves around making lists so that you can be more efficient.

Advertising

Making a list is just step one on the road to being productive. If you don’t know how to prioritize the tasks that you have to complete, you’ll feel like you’re always behind. You’ll constantly add to the list, but you’ll never be able to check everything off. You can work hard all day, and walk away feeling guilty for not accomplishing everything.

It’s also confusing to look at a list and see work tasks, home tasks, family priorities and social obligations mixed together. At some point, you’ll get tired of feeling guilty and disorganized. You may ditch the list all together, or it may stick around to cause you unnecessary stress.

Become a better list-maker

Instead of throwing to-do lists out the window entirely, it’s helpful to learn how to make more concise and organized lists. You’ll still be doing the same amount of work, but you’re organizing it in a way that makes you feel more accomplished.

Advertising

If you have one hundred items that you have to do, break that down into 10 lists of 10 items. Every time you complete a list, you have knocked out 10% of your work. Being able to see your progress will make your hundred items seem a little less intimidating.

Break big problems down into manageable chunks

This advice works for goal-setting, completing large projects, and conquering a long to-do list. Divide your list into small pieces that you can complete quickly. You’ll feel so much more motivated when you see a list that you can actually complete instead of one that drags on for days.

Set your priorities

It’s tempting to label list items with a priority level by assigning them a value or equating them with numbers. Avoid designating items as high, medium, or low priority. Don’t waste time saying, “This task is a level 1, this one is a level 2, and this is a level 3.” You’ll probably end up with a lot of things that seem really urgent.

Advertising

Try prioritizing your list visually instead. Organize them from most-important to least-important. Your most important item is at the top of your list, and it should be completed first.[2] After you check that off, move on to the next item. Whatever is at the top of your list is the most important thing.

Rather than mix and match your tasks, separate them according to where they fit in your life. Focus on the work-related tasks at work. When you get home, put the work-list away, and be 100% dedicated to the things you need to do at home.

This strategy is effective because you’ll only be focusing on one thing at a time. Our brains aren’t good at multi-tasking, so it doesn’t make sense to ask them to do that.[3] Concentrating on one item at a time means that you’ll be able to carry out the task more quickly and efficiently than if you were worrying about several items.

Advertising

Productivity strategies should make us feel better–not worse

A long list of tasks that can’t be completed will leave you feeling tired, guilty, and stressed. Adopt the practice of making concise lists and focusing on one thing at a time, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you are able to accomplish.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) Secrets to Organizing Thoughts and Ideas (So You’ll Never Lose Ideas!) How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Evil Root Causes And How To Tackle Them Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

Trending in Smartcut

1What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) 2How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done 317 Types of Online Work at Home Jobs that Really Pay Off 421 Cover Letter Tips to Hook The Attention of Employers 5How to Quit Your Job That You Hate and Start Doing What You Love

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 19, 2018

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

If you have so many things to do that you often find yourself struggling to finish projects and tasks and move on to other stuff, you’re certainly not alone. Studies show that over 20 percent of the adult population put off or avoid doing certain tasks by allowing themselves to be overtaken by distractions.[1]

What about the rest of the population? What do they do to prevent procrastination?

In this article, I am going to explain to you why procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating once and for all by following a step-by-step guide. But first, you need to understand how procrastination happens.

What is procrastination

Piers Steel, the author of the book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, defines procrastination in this way:[2]

“Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

In other words, procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. The end result is that important tasks are put off to a later time.

This comic is one of the typical examples of procrastination:

    Why stopping procrastination is difficult

    Human beings have limited self-control. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University, has been studying self-control and he has found that just like any muscles, human’s self-control is a limited resource that can quickly become exhausted.[3] When self-control is close to being depleted, human tend to choose what’s more pleasurable– the immediate procrastinated tasks instead of the actual works.

    At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy. Procrastinators choose to do something else instead of doing what they need to do because it’s much easier to choose pleasure over pain.

    In short, procrastination is so difficult to beat because it is a battle against human’s natural enemy, a human weakness that is in-born.

    Advertising

    A step-by-step guide to stop procrastinating

    Despite the fact that it’s human nature to seek for immediate rewards and procrastinate, here I have a step-by-step guide for you to follow so as to stop procrastinating.

    1. Identify your triggers: the 5 types of procrastinator

    Identifying the type of procrastination you personally experience is an essential step for you to fix the problem at its root.

    Take a look at this flowchart here to find out what type of procrastinator you are:

      Which type of procrastinator are you? Let’s take a look at the triggers for your procrastination type:

      Perfectionist

      Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want. But often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to complete things, as they’re forever seeking the perfect timing or approach. Tasks end up never being completed, because in the eyes of the perfectionist, things are never perfect enough.

      Instead of finishing something, perfectionists get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions.

      Ostrich

      An ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, or deal with any negativity or stress.

      Dreaming gives this type of people a false sense of achievement, as in their minds, they envision big, ambitious plans. Unfortunately for them, these plans will most likely stay as dreams, and they’ll never accomplish anything truly worthwhile.

      Self-saboteur

      A self-saboteur has bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

      In reality, self-saboteurs have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. Their way to avoid these mishaps, is to do nothing at all. In the end, they may make few mistakes – but they also see few accomplishments.

      Advertising

      Daredevil

      Daredevils are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work – they prefer to enjoy time doing their own thing before the deadline comes around.

      It’s most likely an unconscious thing, but daredevils evidently believe that starting early will sacrifice their time for pleasure. This is reinforced in their minds and feelings, by the many times they manage to get away with burning the midnight oil. Often they sacrifice the quality of their work because of rushing it.

      Chicken

      Chickens lack the ability to prioritize their work. They do what they feel like they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.

      Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so chicken will feel it’s not worth it. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks.

      2. Face your triggers and get rid of them

      Whether it’s fear of failure, overwhelming feelings, avoidance or convincing yourself you’re just too busy to get something done, you can improve your ability to be productive by eliminating your procrastination triggers.

      For Perfectionists, re-clarify your goals.

      Much of the time procrastination tendencies form simply because we’ve outgrown our goals. We’re ever-changing and so are our wants in life. Try looking over your goals and ask yourself if they’re still what you want.

      Take time out to regroup and ask yourself what you really want to achieve:

      • What steps do you need to take?
      • Is what you’re currently doing reflecting what you want?
      • What do you need to change?

      Write things down, scribble them out and rewrite.

      For Ostriches, do the difficult tasks first.

      Even if you feel you’re not a morning person, the beginning of the day is when your brain is most productive. Use this window of time to get the more difficult stuff done.

      If you leave your difficult tasks to later, you’re much more likely to put it off because you’re tired and lack motivation.

      Finishing lots of simple tasks at the beginning of the day such as reading all the new emails only gives you a false sense of being productive.

      Advertising

      For Self-saboteurs, write out a to-do (and a not–to-do) list each day.

      Writing things down is powerful and psychologically increases your need to get things done.

      Each day, make a habit of creating a list of the tasks you know you’ll try and avoid. By doing this, it brings these ‘difficult’ tasks to your mind’s attention instead of keeping them locked away somewhere in your avoidance mode.

      Remember, think how satisfying and productive it feels to cross of a completed task.

      For Daredevils, create a timeline with deadlines.

      It’s common to have a deadline for a goal which seems like a good idea. But this is basically an open invitation for procrastination.

      If it’s a self-created deadline with no pressure, we tend to justify pushing it back each time it comes into sight and feel we haven’t yet done ‘enough’ to get there.

      Create a bigger timeline then within that, establish deadlines along the way. The beauty of this comes when each deadline completion is dependent on the next. It keeps you on track and keeps you accountable for being in alignment with the overall timeline.

      For Chickens, break tasks into bite-sized pieces.

      A lot of the time procrastination comes from overwhelming thoughts.

      If something feels too big to tackle and we don’t know where to start, it feels like a struggle. This is also true if our goal is too vague and lacking direction.

      Break down larger tasks into smaller ones and turn them into daily or weekly goals. Smaller steps may seem like the slower approach to achieving a goal, but it often leads you much more quickly to where you want to be due to the powerful momentum you get going.

      3. Take planned breaks

      The human brain isn’t designed to work continuously on the same task and this could be a reason for procrastination.

      Make sure you take regular, structured breaks away from your task so that you can come back refreshed and ready to be more productive.

      Advertising

      A break as short as 5 minutes is enough to keep your mind sharp and wards off fatigue. I recommend you to use the Pomodoro Time Tracker. It is a great tool to help you take breaks at set intervals. Simply start the 25-minute timer, and follow the prompts.

        4.  Reward yourself

        It’s important to acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving even the small tasks. It creates a sense of motivation and releases those feel-good, productive emotions that spur you on to achieve even more.

        Make your reward proportional to the task you completed so getting a bite-sized task done gets you a cup of your favourite coffee or snack. Then plan a weekend away or fun activity for the bigger stuff.

        Personally I try to make staying focus more fun by using the app Forest. It turns productivity into a game. In the game, you can plant a virtual tree at the beginning of your work time. If you maintain focus for the duration of the timer, you’ll grow a tree to add to your forest. It’s rewarding when you can eventually grow a forest.

          5. Keep track of your time in a smart way

          If you want to prevent the bad habit of procrastination from coming back, keep track of the time you spend every day.

          By having a clear idea of where you spend your time, you can always review your productivity and know which areas to improve.

          It’s not easy to keep track of every minute you spend throughout the day so I recommend you to use the app Rescue Time.

          It gets you a categorized breakdown of how you spend your time and helps you to find out how much time you’re really on-task. You can even label activities as productive and non-productive so as to block your biggest distractions.

            Make procrastination under your control

            Procrastination exists for many reasons and only you know for yourself what these triggers are.

            Understanding what procrastination really is and the source of your avoidance tendencies is important in moving them out of the way and help you start the productivity momentum.

            Reference

            Read Next