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4 Ways to Supercharge Your To-Do List

4 Ways to Supercharge Your To-Do List

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.”

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 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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