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6 Steps To Complete The Tasks On Your Overwhelming To Do List

6 Steps To Complete The Tasks On Your Overwhelming To Do List

You have Post-It notes all over your desktop at work, and scraps of paper beneath magnets covering your fridge. All of these are tasks you have to accomplish within a certain window of time, but you can’t even keep them all straight because you’re so overwhelmed.

It’s simple to keep everything straight so that you look polished and pulled together. Follow these steps to complete tasks on your overwhelming to do list, and you won’t be unprepared or forget another meeting or event.

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1. Keep one list

It’s easy to write down things as you think of them on Post-It notes, the backs of receipts, and any scrap of paper you can find. Having a handful of papers to keep track of is just another task added to your to-do list! Keep everything together on one sheet of paper, either in a work notebook, on a page you keep in your wallet, or in the notes section of your phone. This way you’ll be able to keep track of everything in one place, both what you need to do and what you’ve accomplished.

2. Write down everything you need to do

And I mean every little thing. From putting a letter in the mailbox, to reheating leftovers for dinner, or even cutting your toenails! Writing down every task you need to accomplish ensures that you won’t forget anything. Also, it gives you more opportunities to put a thick red line through something on your list, and who doesn’t get inspired by seeing a lot of marked off tasks? It’ll make you feel like you can finish the rest with no problem.

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3. Prioritize the list

It is especially to prioritize when you’re listing every little thing! The work deadline may be more important than baking cookies for a new neighbor. Write your most pressing tasks at the top of the list, so you’ll see them each time you check. If it helps, categorize tasks into levels of priority. Type A tasks are urgent, like putting the utility bill in the mail or sending back a permission slip with your child. Type B tasks need to be done as soon as possible, but have a little leeway in terms of time. Type C tasks would make your life easier if they get done, like putting those extra clothes in the attic.

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4. Break daunting tasks into manageable pieces

If you have a big project due on Monday, don’t keep writing it on your to-do list and putting it off because it seems too major. Break it into smaller tasks. Looking up topics could be one step, and finding three research sources could be the next. Keep breaking large tasks into manageable bits to ensure you’ll get them all done on time, without stressing yourself out too much.

5. Write down your goals

Your to-do list doesn’t have to be all business! Don’t forget to include what you’ll achieve once you get your list cleared. All those small tasks build up to mean you’ll finish a presentation for work, which might make you eligible for a promotion.

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Your goals don’t have to be serious or job-related. Will finishing all your small tasks mean you have time to watch a movie before bed? Go out to dinner with friends this weekend? Don’t forget the fun things you’ll get to do once you’re not bogged down by what you have to do.

6. Keep it short and simple!

Waking up every morning to a long to-do list is just going to make it harder to get down to business. There’s nothing more disheartening than knowing you’ll never be able to finish everything you’re supposed to. Look over your list and make sure you really need to write that book review today. If you can wait and work on more over the weekend, try and keep your days freer to tackle necessary tasks.

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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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