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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 May 7, 2021

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

    Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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    Relocate your alarm clock.

    Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

    Scrap the snooze.

    The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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    Change up your buzzer

    If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

    Make a puzzle

    If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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    Get into a routine

    Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

    Have a reason

    Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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    As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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