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5 Practical Ways to Make Your To-Do List Work

5 Practical Ways to Make Your To-Do List Work

Your to-do list is the heart and mind of your daily work; it works like your personal assistant, or rather your own private Boss who tells what you should do and when you should do it. Without a written to-do list, you get stressed, you lose time, and you end up being unproductive and inefficient.

Therefore, to free up your brain, you have to make a clear and efficient to-do list. Think of it like your external brain, and start imagining how you can arrange it to make it as powerful as possible.

Find the right tool

The very first thing you have to do is to find the right tool to manage your to-do list. I highly recommend that you use an online task management application because they’re flexible, sharable, and they’ve already proven their efficiency in terms of productivity. Plus, most task management applications give you the opportunity to add content and due dates to your tasks, to delegate work, and to collaborate with your teammates.

Forget using post-its, whiteboards and paper to-do lists. You won’t be able to do anything efficiently with a to-do list written on a piece of paper.

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Organize and Prioritize

tasks list

    Once you’ve picked the right application for your to-do list, you need to organize your tasks. Your to-do list should be easy and practical to use.

    To get organized, you should first make sure that you only add the tasks that you’re actually going to work on in a reasonable amount of time. So if something you’re working on is complex, you should break it down into smaller tasks.

    Secondly, you need to prioritize your tasks. Always put the most important tasks at the top of your list. Prioritizing your tasks helps you focus on the most urgent/important things you have to get done.

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    Add content

    task content

      After you create a task, you’ll need to enrich it by adding content so that when you’re ready, you’ll have all the resources you need to start working. Think of it like cooking: you first need to gather and prepare all the ingredients before you turn the oven on, right?!

      A task’s content can be anything you need, like a document, a note, an email, a link, a description or a list of subtasks. It’s all about adding everything you need to complete your work.

      Don’t forget that your to-do list is your personal assistant, and that the role of a personal assistant is to give you a maximum amount of information so you can do whatever it is you have to do easily.

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      Besides, adding content to your to-do list helps you focus on your work so your workflow can be easily managed.

      Keep it short

      If you have too many tasks on your to-do list, you might feel overwhelmed before you even get started. To be efficient, your to-do list needs to be doable. In other words, it needs to be short so that you’re subconsciously motivated to start working.

      If your to-do list is too long, move your tasks to another day or week. The objective is to have a clear picture on what you have to do, and can do, today. Tomorrow is another day, and you don’t need to have those tasks in today’s field of vision.

      Some people say to keep your to-do list under 20 tasks, and others say no more than 3. It really isn’t a matter of numbers, but rather the nature of your tasks. Some things take a few minutes to get done, others hours. You need to feel comfortable with the size of your to-do list and be able to tell yourself, “I can definitely get all of this done today”.

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      Make it collaborative

      The more we are, the merrier we will be, right? The same theory works with your to-do list.  If you keep it to yourself, you’ll have a harder time accomplishing your tasks.

      Therefore, when you’re choosing a task management app, you should make sure it’s collaborative. That way, you’ll be able to share ideas and get in sync with your coworkers. The idea is to get your teammates involved in your tasks and accomplish your work faster. If every member of your team is on the same page and using the the same information, your to-do list will work almost all by itself.

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      Last Updated on October 16, 2018

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

      How about a unique spin on things?

      These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives.

      Learn from these highly successful people’s personal development skills, turn these skills into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

      1. Empty your mind

      It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

      Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

      Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

      Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

      How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

      2. Keep certain days clear

      Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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      This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

      3. Prioritize your work

      Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

      Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

      Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      4. Chop up your time

      Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

      5. Have a thinking position

      Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

      What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

      6. Pick three to five things you must do that day

      To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

      Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

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      7. Don’t try to do too much

      OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew.

      Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

      8. Have a daily action plan

      Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

      Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

      9. Do your most dreaded project first

      Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else.

      This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

      10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule”

      The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then.

      Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

      11. Have a place devoted to work

      If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

      But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

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      Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

      Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

      12. Find your golden hour

      You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

      Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

      Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

      Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

      13. Pretend you’re on an airplane

      It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

      By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

      Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

      If you find yourself easily distracted and can’t focus, this method will help you overcome distractions.

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      14. Never stop

      Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

      Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

      There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

      15. Be in tune with your body

      Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it.

      Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

      16. Try different methods

      Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

      It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

      Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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