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How to Make a List Doable in 6 Steps

How to Make a List Doable in 6 Steps

No wonder that you are stressed. Your days are very busy and even though you carefully plan them, the amount of work is just crushing you.

You blame it on your task list.

It seems very doable when you first look at it in the morning, but when it’s afternoon, the amount of tasks is far from decreasing. Instead, it stays the same or even increases – no matter how hard you work.

You wonder if there is a way out of this situation and I’m happy to say that yes, there is! The solutions may sound simple, but you need to adjust your working habits a bit and make a list that is doable until they work.

Is your list out of control?

Here is the thing: You keep feeding the baby monster, so that it’s keeps growing and growing. And instead of killing the monster while it’s a baby, it grows to a huge proportions and that’s how it becomes virtually impossible to eliminate.

In other words, you keep adding new tasks to your list throughout the day. So, no matter how well you plan your tasks the day before, you are sabotaging your own productivity and success by doing so.

Also, you never complete the original tasks you planned because you are distracted. Instead, you focus on the newest tasks on the list, but unfortunately they are not the ones you should be doing.

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At the end of the day, you feel a lack of accomplishment. This is a direct result of not getting all the tasks done that you planned. This feeling isn’t doing your self-confidence any good. When you feel that you weren’t able to finish all the tasks, you see yourself as a loser.

You are trying to do too much

So what is causing these negative feelings – even if you work hard?

Well, I would say there are four reasons:

  • Lack of control
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of priority
  • Afraid to say “no”

Let’s explain each one of those in more detail.

First, there is lack of control – you are not controlling what enters to the list and when. This in turn makes a list that keeps growing and growing – instead of shrinking.

And when you let this happen, it’s no wonder that you start to show the signs of burning out – even if the clock just passed the noon.

Then, there is the lack of focus. This happens when you are not committed enough to complete the original tasks on your list. Instead, you let new tasks distract you.

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All of a sudden you start working on some new, unplanned tasks, while neglecting the ones you should be focusing on. The prioritization to your current tasks needs improvements, so that the distraction could be prevented in the future.

Finally, you don’t have the courage to say to the other person that you can’t accept new assignments to your list today.

This happens for example in your workplace, when your boss walks to your cubicle and asks you to do something as soon as possible. So instead of finishing the task you are doing in that very moment, you are expected to do this new task right away.

Since you want to be a good employee, you find yourself re-prioritizing your work because your boss asked you to.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to feed the baby monster (your task list in the morning). Since you keep doing it, the list (or the monster) grows and grows this gets you overwhelmed and stressed.

However, I’m going to tell you two different strategies for dealing with the overflowing task list.

Are you ready?

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Do it tomorrow and close the list

Back in 2008, I read a great book called: “Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management” by Mark Forster.

In that book, here presented two solutions to improve your productivity. With these solutions you can make your task list more manageable, thus you are cutting down your stress while doing so.

First, he talked about closing the list.

What he meant was that instead of adding tasks to your list throughout the day, you should stop doing so and make your list a closed one. And the way you do it is to draw a line under the last task of the list.

When you close the list, you are making an agreement with yourself: You decide not to add any new tasks during the day. This is how your list becomes more manageable and the size is shrinking as the day goes by – not staying the same or increasing.

Second, his advice was to postpone the execution of tasks a bit. What this means is that when someone asks you to do something, you aren’t trying to do it the same day. Instead, you let the person know that you are doing the task tomorrow.

Although this may sound like procrastinating, in reality it’s not.

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It’s all about respecting your current task list and giving its tasks enough focus and priority. This way you can get the tasks done and you also make sure, that the other person and his/her tasks gets your full attention the next day – when you actually do the task.

Now, there are cases when you have to deal with the task right away, but in majority of cases you should postpone the task – till tomorrow.

The step-by-step plan to make a list that is doable (and kill the baby monster)

Here are the step-by-step actions for eliminating the baby monster until it grows too big.

  1. Plan a list. Make a task list realistic by giving it a little more thought the night before. Instead of stuffing it with dozens of tasks, try to find the most important ones to focus on.
  2. Close it. After creating the list, draw the line under the last task. This marks the list as a closed one. New tasks shouldn’t be added to the list during the day.
  3. Protect the list from distraction. Focus on finishing your planned tasks by the end of the day. When you have closed the list, you can be calm knowing that the number of tasks is decreasing. You also give your full attention for the tasks of the day and nothing else.
  4. Move the unfinished tasks. If you are unable to finish all the tasks in a certain day, move the unfinished ones to the next day. It’s also worth analyzing why you didn’t accomplish the tasks, so that you can avoid a similar thing happening in the future.
  5. No new assignments. It’s important to deal with other people the right way. When someone comes to you and asks you to do something now, let him/her know that you are doing the task – but only tomorrow. This way you are protecting your time and your task list the best way possible.
  6. Deal with the emergencies. Of course, there might be emergencies that have to be taken care of right away. These emergencies are exceptions and you should definitely take care of them right away. Once the emergency is handled, you can return back to the original plan and continue executing the tasks if possible.

It’s very easy to keep adding new tasks to your list during the day.

Unfortunately, even if this may be a very compelling thing to do, it is also making you more overwhelmed.

That’s why it’s important to focus on your daily task list by closing it and postponing any requests by other people till tomorrow.

That way you can keep your list manageable and you can avoid the frustration, when you are not getting all your work done.

Over to you: How do you make sure your task list is not growing during the day? Do you try an app like Listible to create any list you want digitally or do you stick with a paper and pen method? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: Beautiful blonde girl writing via Shutterstock

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Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.

I’d bet they’re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that’s how they got to be where they are today.

Jealous of them? You don’t have to be.

You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business and success books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here’re 10 of my favorites:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime.

    Read this book and you’ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.

    Get the book here!

    2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy

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      Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.

      Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.

      Get the book here!

      3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

        Creating a “me-too” product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That’s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.

        In essence by making the product different you’ll be building the marketing into the actual product development…which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.

        Get the book here!

        4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

          If you’ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.

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          Get the book here!

          5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

            It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work.

            Man’s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.

            Get the book here!

            6. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

              Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn’t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.

              Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I’d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.

                To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits….well you can get where I’m going with this.

                If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.

                Get the book here!

                8. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

                  If you’re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It’s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

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                    Before you create any sort of business you’ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

                      The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you’re passionate about.

                      Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don’t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it’s not likely to work.

                      This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you’re heart isn’t into.

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