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Hate Your To-Do List? Try A Rolling List Instead!

Hate Your To-Do List? Try A Rolling List Instead!


    Oh, the great To-Do List Debate! The productivity world loves arguing over this topic.

    Are to-do lists the only way to keep yourself on task, or an unrealistic goal that just stresses you out and make you feel bad about all the things you never get to? Should you keep a short list of the most essential items, or a massive running list of every task you’ll ever need to remember?

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    I won’t try to jump into this debate, because the truth is that different things work for different people. For me, I’ve found what works best is something known as a “rolling” to-do list. So I’d like to share this technique with you — not to convince you that it’s the only way to go, but to give you another option you may find works well for you, too.

    How It Works

    If you always have multiple projects percolating at once, a rolling to-do list can be a great way to break down all the steps and deadlines and keep you on schedule without overwhelming you. Here’s how it works:

    Start with a blank document (digital, not paper). Rolling lists don’t work well on traditional calendars or notepads because there’s just too much reordering and rearranging. You need something you can easily cut and paste on as your priorities shift and new items come up.

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    Break your projects up into steps. Say one of your to-dos this month is to finish the Smith report. That task is made up of many smaller components: gathering research, compiling and organizing data, drafting the report, circulating it to coworkers for feedback. Write out each component as a separate item on your list, in the order you’ll need to-do them.

    Give those steps deadlines. Let’s say the Smith report is due in 2 weeks. Next to each component of the project, put down an estimated deadline for when you’d need to complete that item in order to keep things on schedule. This isn’t a hard and fast deadline, just a reference point to keep you from falling behind and to help you rank the item in the right spot on your list.

    Prioritize your items. Let’s say you’ve got five action items with deadlines this week. Decide which are the most crucial and put those first. If Mr. Smith is your biggest, most VIP client, then action items related to his report will probably go before any others. Whatever’s at the top of your list should always be the items you absolutely must get done, even if the rest get rolled over to tomorrow.

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    Tackle the items in order. No skipping ahead if you don’t particularly feel like doing item no. 1 right now. The whole point of ranking your items was to make sure the most important things get done first. So, buck up and do whatever’s on the top of your list.

    Reevaluate and reorder. Your list will always be evolving. Every morning, examine your tasks to make sure they’re still in the right order. Maybe another project has suddenly been upgraded to urgent status; bump its tasks up on the list. Maybe you’ve gotten some new to-dos, so you need to figure out where to fit them in. The key to keeping a rolling to-do list effective is to keep it rolling.

    Why It Helps

    It’s manageable. Rather than a list of big, nebulous projects that’s paralyzing to look at, a rolling list breaks things down into small, actionable items you can work on right now. You’re always chipping away at a piece of one project or another, making progress without getting overwhelmed.

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    It’s flexible. Life happens, and traditional to-do lists don’t accommodate that very well: if today’s to-dos don’t get to-done, they stay at the top of the list, while more things keep getting to the bottom, leaving you with twice as much work and twice as much stress. In comparison, a rolling list allows you to juggle things around and make space for the unexpected, restructuring your priorities as projects change and deadlines shift.

    If traditional lists haven’t worked for you, try giving the rolling list a trial run. You may find it’s just what you need to keep your changing priorities in order (and your sanity intact).

    (Photo credit: Thoughtful Businesswoman via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    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.

    In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

    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]

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    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.

    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.

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    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.

    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.

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    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?

    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.

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    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.

    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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