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.
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.
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.
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.
#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.”
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.