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8 Productivity Hacks to Get Out of To-Do List Purgatory

8 Productivity Hacks to Get Out of To-Do List Purgatory


    You feel like you can’t get anything worthwhile accomplished today, yet the tasks keep piling on.

    I call it “To-Do List Purgatory” because it’s a hellish rut where important tasks never seem to get done.

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    I’ve been there often enough to share with you my best methods to stop yourself from getting trapped. Use these following 8 productivity hacks and get out (and stay out!) of to-do list purgatory:

    1. Hit Restart

    Rewrite your task list and give yourself a realistic selection of things you can do today. It makes no sense to create a giant laundry list of things that you’ll never get done. Make tasks that fit into the time you have available. Spend 5 minutes each morning preparing a daily to-do list with a handful of priority tasks that you know you can accomplish today. Park the tasks you don’t see doing today on a holding list for another day.

    2. Use Laser-Focus

    Everyone should have a “Laser-Focus Mode” where they shut out the world and concentrate with intense focus. Set a timer for 15 minutes and commit to working with laser-point focus on one and only one task. Once you get going you’ll find it’s an addictive habit. Assist this process by creating an uber-productive atmosphere: close your door, turn off your phone, and unplug from the internet.

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    3. Toss ‘Em Out

    Sometimes you take for granted that something must be done just because it’s on your list. Retrain yourself to know it’s not always the case. When in doubt, the best way to see if something is truly a priority, delete it from your list. It’ll come back if it’s truly something important.

    4. Choose Your Big Three

    Each day, you need to declare three clear-cut priorities to which you should focus most of your energy. Choose the tasks that offer you the highest yield per hour of effort. Yes, I know you have much more to do, but it’s important you learn to take advantage of the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your success comes from the top 20% of your daily tasks.

    5. Eat that Freaking Frog

    Start your day doing the worst task possible and you’ll have a much easier time working through your to-do list. Too often, we avoid those “ugly frog” tasks we hate. That, in turn, creates a black hole affect where other tasks are sucked in and your list grows totally stagnant. There’s a good reason eating the frog is one of the top procrastination tips – it works! Don’t trick yourself into thinking you need to start your day slowly, you’ll never get started.

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    6. Improve Your Grammar

    Re-write each task so your list offers detailed instructions. Don’t just write the words “do budget” — it’s a daunting and unapproachable statement. Instead, create phrases that begin with a verb and offer clarity as to the outcome. “List monthly bills due.” If your task can’t be turned into a specific action, it needs to be broken down into smaller steps, as I did in this example.

    7. Set Deadlines

    Setting deadlines for your major daily tasks is an effective way to keep focused during your task time. You’ll be amazed how much more gratifying it feels to maintain start-stop points in your task times. The structure of time constraints offers you a tangible comfort zone for doing your work, and it offers a much greater sense of accomplishment than the alternative — working until someone or something else distracts you.

    8. Just Keep Moving

    The next time you find yourself getting stuck in your day feeling like you’re not getting anywhere and not knowing what to do next, there are two simple choices. Do the next thing you can think or, or quit the task and move on to the next one. Either way, don’t let yourself freeze up… it eventually leads to procrastination and futility. Keep yourself moving and maintain your momentum — it’s the lifeblood of having a productive day.

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    Remember, your best bet is to avoid to-do list purgatory altogether. It’s truly just a matter of making a well-defined, list of priority tasks and following through on your commitments to that list each day. Do this and you’ll be in productivity heaven.

    What’s your sticking point each day? Please share with me in the comments section and I’ll do my best to offer a tip that best fits you.

    (Photo credit: Frustrated Businesswoman via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Jeff Doubek

    Jeff believes time management success is just a few good habits away for anyone wanting to achieve their dreams.

    4 Critical Ways You Can Stop Wasting Time Today 8 Productivity Hacks to Get Out of To-Do List Purgatory

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    Published on July 22, 2019

    The Secret to Success Is Failure

    The Secret to Success Is Failure

    You see a job that you’d love to do; and, you decide to go for it.

    You submit your application, and then are pleased to find a few days later that you’re invited for an interview. This goes well, and you begin to have quiet optimism that a job offer will be coming your way soon…

    It doesn’t.

    Instead, you receive a letter saying thank you — but, they’ve decided to go with another candidate.

    At this point, you could allow yourself to feel defeated, sad, and perhaps even a little angry. These are normal responses to bad news. Yet, it’s not wise to let them fester and disrupt your goals. Successful people don’t let failures kill their dreams.

    Sure, they might temporarily feel deflated. But, very quickly, they pick themselves back up again and begin planning their next steps towards success.

    How about you? Do you currently feel embarrassed or guilty about failing?

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    Don’t worry if you do, as most of us have been programmed since childhood to see failure as a bad thing. Yet, as I’m going to show you in the next few minutes, this programming is dead wrong — failure is actually an essential part of success.

    Don’t Be Tempted by Perfection

    The first thing I want you to think about is this:

    Resisting failure is, at its core, seeking perfection. And, perfection doesn’t exist.

    That’s why perfectionists are also likely to be chronic procrastinators.

    As Psychology Today noted in their article Pitfalls of Perfectionism, people who constantly seek for perfection stop themselves from engaging in challenging experiences.[1] That’s because these perfectionists are less creative and innovative than the average person — plus they’re less likely to take risks. Add these factors together, and you have someone who is overly focused on their own performance and is always quick to defend themselves. Unfortunately, these traits prevent them from having the necessary focus when it comes to learning new tasks.

    Let me be clear: Striving for perfection is not the same as striving for excellence.

    The former is a fool’s quest for the unattainable; while the latter is really just about doing our very best (which we can all obtain).

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    And, there’s another problem that perfectionists have to deal with. Namely, when they fail to reach their ideal, they feel dejected and defeated. And — as you can imagine — repeat this often enough, and these people can end up feeling bitter and depressed about their lives.

    So, forget about seeking perfection, and instead, focus on always doing your very best.

    Why Failure Is Good

    I recently came across a Forbes article Failing Your Way To Success: Why Failure Is A Crucial Ingredient For Success[2] that helped explain why most people are opposed to failure.

    The article referenced the work of two world-renowned psychologists (Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky), who were awarded a Nobel Prize for their work. They discovered something very interesting: the effect of a loss is twice as great as the gain from a win.

    Have you ever thought about that before?

    What it means is that failure has a far greater negative impact on us than the positive impact of an equivalent win. It’s no wonder then that most people are afraid to fail.

    And, here’s where it gets interesting…

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    Amazon (which along with Apple, Facebook and Google, is considered one of the Big Four technology companies) has a culture that is tolerant of failure. And Jeff Bezos — Amazon’s founder and CEO — believes that this culture is one of the main reasons for the company’s big achievements over the last 25 years. In a letter to shareholders, he said:

    “Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right.” 

    The truth is, failure can open up a world of exciting opportunities for you.

    How does it do this?

    By constantly showing you new avenues to travel on. And, by helping you learn from your mistakes — so you can be better next time around. It also helps you identify what’s not working for your life, and what is.

    So instead of seeing something as detrimental to success, you should see it as a tool FOR success. A tool that will help you to continually refine your journey in life.

    If you still need some convincing that the secret to success is failure, then take a look at the following excerpts from our article 10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On:

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    • J.K. Rowling encountered a catalog of failures shortly after graduating from college, including: being jobless, the breakdown of her marriage, and living as a lone parent. However, instead of giving up on life, she used these failures to propel her to write the Harry Potter fantasy series — the best-selling book series in history.

    • Walt Disney didn’t have an easy start either. He dropped out of school at a young age in a failed attempt to join the army. Later, one of his early business ventures, Laugh-o-Gram Studios, went bankrupt. He was also fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.” (Yes, you read that correctly.) Was he defeated by these failures? Just ask Mickey Mouse.

    • Michael Jordan had this to say about the power of failure: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

    Embrace Failure, and Prepare for Success

    I hope this has been an eye-opener for you.

    Failure has long been branded a leper; but in reality, it’s a healthy, essential component of success.

    The trick of course is to develop the mindset of a winner. Someone who sees failures as stepping stones to success — and defeats as important learning experiences.

    So, are you ready to embrace your failures and take the proud road to success?

    I sincerely hope so.

    Featured photo credit: Bruce Mars via unsplash.com

    Reference

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