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4 Ways to Supercharge Your To-Do List

4 Ways to Supercharge Your To-Do List
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What’s one tool that can help you be more productive, lessen distractions and get more things done at the same time? If you’ve read the title of this post then you know that the answer to that would be a to-do list.

It sounds simple enough, right? Write down the things that you need to do for the day and you’ll boost your productivity. But then again, if it were really that easy, how come so many people are still distracted and unproductive? Here’s the thing. While to-do lists are widely known as an effective productivity hack, most people still don’t bother with it. Sure, a lot of individuals may start the habit, but most will fail to keep it up in a consistent basis and they’ll instead revert to their unproductive ways.

Don’t be one of those people. If you’re serious about boosting your productivity, commit to writing down your tasks or goals and stick to it. Every. Single. Day.

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Already got a to-do list? Good. Now it’s time to work on supercharging it so you can get EVEN more things done and free up additional time. Below are a few to-do list hacks that you can implement to ensure that your list keeps you at your top performance level at all times.

#1 See it as a GOAL list instead

Let’s start with your mindset: don’t think of your to-do list as just something that enumerates your tasks or chores. Instead, see it as a list of your GOALS for the day. This perspective is so much more powerful and can change the way that you approach your tasks.

Ensure that this goal mindset is also reflected on your list. For instance, instead of writing a task as “Blog post for client A”, write in an actionable statement so it reads something like “Submit blog post for client A” or “Finish blog post for client A”. The latter statements are more specific, actionable, and can condition you to perform better.

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#2 Prioritize

An unordered to-do is only about half as effective as a numbered one with clear priorities. Productivity isn’t just about getting things done; it’s about accomplishing tasks that actually matter. A numbered to-do list helps you do just that by spelling out which tasks should be done first. It helps you get the important stuff out of the way as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Always number your to-do list according to the importance of each task, and always do the important ones first. Avoid doing the easy tasks first. Trust me, putting off the more challenging tasks won’t make them any less difficult, so you might as well get started as early as possible.

Not getting your priorities straight can lead to decreased levels of productivity. You could just end up procrastinating on the big tasks by doing the low-level tasks on your list.

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Here’s a tip for writing your to-do list: Take down all the things that you need to do, but don’t number them yet. Only number the items after you’ve written all the tasks and after you’ve read through them—this allows you to get an overview of the things that you need to do for the day and it gives you time to prioritize them properly.

#3 “Hide” tasks

The key to getting things done is focusing on one task at a time and not doing anything else until that task is accomplished. Multi-tasking doesn’t work, so resist the urge to do two or more things at the same time. It takes a certain amount of time and effort for your body to shift gears between one job to the next, so trying to switch back and forth between two tasks won’t help you complete them any faster.

To help keep your focus, “hide” the tasks on your list if you aren’t working on them. Cover them with a post-it or write down the one task you have on hand and put it in front of you. Doing so will keep you from being distracted with other things and will allow you finish your current task quicker and more efficiently.

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#4 Really feel it when you cross things off your list

Whenever you complete a task, make it a point to cross off the task from your list (it’s better if you can do it physically on paper) and really focus on the accomplishment and productivity that you feel as you do it.

This will give you natural productivity high that will pump you up for the next task, allowing you to be even more productive. Do it often enough to let your body get addicted to that high, and you’ll end up as a task-completing machine in no time.

Letting yourself feel that productivity high doesn’t just help you be more efficient, it boosts your overall well-being at the same time. As personal and professional development coach Brian Tracy put it, “Important task completion triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. These endorphins give you a natural “high.” The endorphin rush that follows successful completion of any task makes you feel more positive, personable, creative and confident.”

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Here’s a bonus tip: Whenever you’re feeling lazy or having one of those slow days, think back to a time when you were ultra-productive and strive to bring the feeling of accomplishment to the present so you can get in the mood of task completion and productivity.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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