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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)

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    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 November 15, 2019

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

    However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

    Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

    Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

    Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

    What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

    To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

    The Biology

    Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

    Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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    The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

    A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

    Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

    So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

    Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

    Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

    Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

    Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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    The Psychology

    Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

    Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

    Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

    Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

    What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

    Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

    Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

    1. Identify Your Habits

    As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

    2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

    Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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    It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

    3. Apply Logic

    You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

    Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

    4. Choose an Alternative

    As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

    Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

    5. Remove Triggers

    Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

    Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

    6. Visualize Change

    Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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    For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

    7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

    Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

    Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

    Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

    More About Changing Habits

    Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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