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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.

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

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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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