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How Happy People Work Their To-Do List

How Happy People Work Their To-Do List

To-do lists. Everyone in the world seems to be running on their own intensely private and personalized schedules that fifty years ago would have seemed insane, and even nowadays seems a bit beyond the pale. Let’s face it, organization is a key skill that everyone needs to possess these days.

So, how do the happy people do it? Those poised, serene and cheerful people who seem to glide through life, crossing item after item off their to-do lists and seeming to be at one with a mystical and never-ending source of joie de vivre.

As someone who’s coming to terms with the finer points of personal organization and the to-do list, I took a look at how happy people run, work and prioritize their to-do lists and found some fantastic tips and techniques which help them stay productive, calm, and most of all, happy people.

1. Start Early

Even if you’re not an early riser, make a habit of rising early. Not only will you feel a lot better with more under your belt by starting early, but are plenty of other side benefits that honestly make the early rise all the more important in terms of to-do list.

You’re more likely to experience silence and quiet times in the early morning, which will help you focus and channel your energies into getting your to-do list done while other people are still asleep.

2. Reward Yourself Often

Treat yourself throughout the day for getting stuff done. Filed all those reports? Go for a walk in the park. Finished that article or called your aunt? Treat yourself to a sweet treat for lunch.

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Treating yourself often with special things you like offers a nice incentive to keep up the productivity without splurging and losing your productive state of mind. Plus it’s an awesome excuse for that sweet little something or indulgent purchase.

3. Tackle The Hardest Thing First

There’s generally one big task that can be the main focus of an entire day and it can seem daunting to even tackle it. It’s very easy to tackle all the smaller tasks and then save the big task for either later on when we’re less motivated, or save it for another day.

Therefore, go ahead and make it the first thing you tackle.  When it’s out of the way, you’ll instantly feel on top of your stuff.

4. Factor In Procrastination Time

We all procrastinate. It’s fine – we all do it – but the key is stop letting your natural procrastination become a total drain on your time for that day.

Don’t overload your schedule if you know that you’re going to be scrolling through Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter throughout the day and know it’ll get in the way. That way you can enjoy your scrolling relatively guilt free.

5. Add Some Basic Things To The To-Do List

It’s a little psychological trick, but it’s one that’s sure to get you more motivated in the morning when you can look back and see a few things already crossed off.

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Even if it’s something as simple as ‘have a morning shower’ or ‘remember to do some stretches in the morning,’ you’re kickstarting your progress and your day-to-day productivity improves.

6. Add Some Silly Things Too

Be whimsical. Be funny. Go ahead and add the fun things you want to do that day and incorporate them into your to-do list. Life is short, and this will help you to make each day much more enjoyable.

Schedule a one-person dance party or going to an ice cream parlor or a karaoke session. Having fun should always be part of your day, and this little technique will make your to-do lists more interesting and give you a boost.

7. Look To The Weather

The weather is pretty unpredictable, so planning ahead for whatever that comes your way might well be part of what makes a day great. If it’s going to rain, make time to chill out in a cafe with a good book, some tea and a treat. If it’s sunny, go and lay out to get a tan or grab an ice cream in the sunshine.

Find time to kick a big patch of leaves in the autumn or stock up on hot chocolate and good movies for the winter. The weather can affect us and our daily lists, so make sure to keep an eye out for what’s coming ahead climate-wise and save some room for fun to-do list activities.

8. Break It Down Into Categories

One great way of tackling your to-do list is to break it all down into categories and sub-categories.

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Happy people do this to help themselves see the wider picture; each task seems more achievable when it’s broken down into segments you can conquer one at a time. Your to-do list and your commitments will all look much more doable once you’ve boiled them down to the smallest possible tasks.

9. Make Sure You Have Time For Replenishment

Human beings, someone wise once paraphrased, need to be restored, replenished and rejuvenated on a daily basis. The art of self-care has to be part of any successful person’s to-do list.

Happy people are generally happier because they make sure to keep this kind of self-care a part of their daily lives. Make sure you schedule in time for some me-time, and the rejuvenation you feel will make you tackle the rest of your to-do list with renewed vigor.

10. Do It To Music

Music is a great motivator, and nothing can spur us along more than having our own custom soundtrack blasting through our ears and giving us a much-needed boost to get through our tasks.

Go ahead and create custom playlists for certain situations: big, bold and confidence-boosting tracks for when the tasks you’re doing are tough, and calm and serene for when you’re feeling cool and collected and on the top of the world.

11. Don’t Add Everything

If you’re a recovering perfectionist like me, it can be extremely hard not to fill your to-do list with daily chores, work duties, personal obligations and other tasks that don’t really need to be done that day.

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Make sure you never go over a certain limit – a single page of A5 notebook paper, for example – lest you find yourself adding much more than you could ever do.

12. Go With The Flow

To-do lists are fantastic and all, but sometimes you just have to let them go. Having a to-do list every single day can be exhausting, and some days you just have to play things by ear and see what happens. Going with the flow can lead you to fantastic opportunities you might not have had the chance to do otherwise.

Let’s say you’re walking through your city, to-do list primed and ready, and you spot a fair going on. That to-do list will still be there when you’re done, but the fair won’t be.

Go ahead and experience what life has to offer and enjoy everything you can. Let go of the to-do list, even for one day a week. Otherwise you might find yourself trapped in a rut with a scrap of paper that controls you, rather than the other way around.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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