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How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List

How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List


    To do lists are vital to ensuring that we have a way to keep tabs on all of the “stuff” we’ve got going on in our lives. One of the problems with to do lists is that we tend to throw a lot on them and have a difficult time breaking it down into manageable and – better still – meaningful chunks. We tend to tackle it in the order it appears or based what we do on the deadlines that have been set for each item. Not everyone is going to be able to easily break the habit of focusing on time over task, but there are methods you can use to better connect with what’s really important to you on your to do list to make sure you’re not just checking off boxes. Instead, you’ll be checking off the right boxes.

    One of the best ways I’ve found to cultivate a better to do list is through the use of more meaningful contexts.

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    What is a Context?

    A context (in the realm of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology) is described as follows:

    “A context describes the tool, location or person that is required to be able to complete an action.” – via Evomend.net


    That essentially means you can attach a context to a task that can be based on where you need to be or what you have available to you at particular moments so that you can work on said task. But tasks like “Reply to email X” and “Go shopping for anniversary gift” somewhat lend themselves to place-based contexts without you really having to think about it.

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    So what I suggest is that you attach deeper meaning to those tasks by connecting those tasks to trait-based or emotion-based contexts.

    For example, “Reply to email X” may be an email you have to send thanking someone for coming through for you on a particular project or endeavor. So rather than tag that task with a context like “Email” or “Computer”, use “Gratitude” instead. Not only does it put you in a better mindset to send that specific email, but it also connects all of the tasks that are based on gratitude together when you search for that context (or “tag”, depending on what task management software you are using).

    Sample Trait-Based and Emotion-Based Contexts

    • Knowledge: When you are doing research for a project or learning about something.
    • Love: When you are doing a task associated with romance or fostering a romantic or family relationship.
    • Passion: When you have a burning passion for the to do list item, then this is a great context to use to stay focused on what it is you are truly passionate about (you can filter the passionate items from the ones that aren’t tagged as such).
    • Practice: When you are working towards getting better at something, using this context can help you track those things – as well as how much time and energy you are spending on them.
    • Willpower: Use this context when you really need to tap into your sense of willpower to power through a task.
    • Kindness: When you are doing something just to be kind, then this context can be very useful.

    There are plenty of other contexts you can use that can help you connect more deeply with what would normally be a list of boxes you need to check off – attaching them to these boxes won’t just give them a deeper meaning…they may actually play a much bigger part in your productivity.

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    By adding a deeper meaning to your tasks, they will become more important. That, in turn, will drive you to get more done. When you remove the known logical contexts from the equation (Home, Work, Computer, Phone) and replace them with something more “holistic” like the examples I mentioned above, there’s less of a coaxing involved to keep you moving forward.

    After all, we all know where we physically need to be to get certain things done. The trick to compelling you to do them involves tapping into the “why” you are doing them – and that’s where emotion-based contexts come into play.

    Give it a try – even with just one context to start. I bet you’ll find that a deeper meaning to your to do list will mean a deeper connection to what really matters to more than just what’s on that to do list. It’ll mean a deeper connection to what really matters to you.

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    Photo: Businessman Holding Plates with Smiles via Shutterstock

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

    26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

    If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

    Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

    1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

    When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

    2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

    In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

    3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

    This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

    My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

    It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

    4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

    If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

    5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

    When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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    6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

    Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

    7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

    If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

    8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

    It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

    9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

    When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

    10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

    If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

    Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

    11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

    Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

    12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

    Fake it till you make it. Period.

    13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

    When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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    And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

    If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

    Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

    After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

    14. Build a network.

    Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

    Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

    15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

    Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

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      16. Stand up straight.

      No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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      17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

      These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

      18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

      You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

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        19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

        You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

        20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

        If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

        21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

        For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

        Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

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          22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

          As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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          23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

          Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

          24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

          If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

          Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

          25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

          I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

          Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

          The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

          26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

          When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

          For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

          Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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