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How To Totally Rock Your Goals…Even If You’ve Failed At Them Before

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How To Totally Rock Your Goals…Even If You’ve Failed At Them Before

Ever get that feeling that no matter how much you do, there is always a continuing onslaught of things you need to get done?

You had dreams, ideas, things you wanted to try out, and business concepts you know would put cash into your bank account…If only you could get round to doing them you would totally rock your goals!

But then, nothing ever changes. Just as you think you’ve got one time-draining activity out of the way, something else comes along to take its place. It’s almost as if the harder you work and the faster you climb, the steeper the hill gets.

Maybe you can relate to the idea of being on a treadmill at the gym. Each time you have a little success, someone hits the incline button to make you run at a steeper angle! I remember a busy mom describing this as one of her recurring nightmares.

Something’s Got To Give!

If you’re in this situation, it’s not your fault. You got here because you had the best of intentions.

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The reality is, though, the thinking that got you onto this treadmill is not the same thinking that will help you get off of it.

Thinking that you just need to get more stuff done, work harder, or work smarter is still treadmill thinking. It’s not going to fundamentally change anything. All that happens if you apply this logic is that you end up working harder, but still having more stuff come in to fill those precious little gaps in your schedule.

Real change comes from a new approach. Getting off the treadmill depends on starting from somewhere else – away from the treadmill – and applying a new logic.

Step Away From The Treadmill!

You see, the treadmill mentality focuses on dealing with incoming demands and getting through a to-do list. What you need to do to break free of the treadmill is start from:

  1. what you really want out of your life, and
  2. how you want to spend your time.

The first item – what you want out of your life – is fairly straightforward. For most movers and shakers, they’ve got this pretty well defined from the material through to their relationships and their inner world. I’m going to assume you know what you want.

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What is normally overlooked, though, is the second thing: how you want to spend your time.

“We live in an age where hard work and sacrifice are the myths of success.”

The truth is, this is just a paradigm, a way of thinking and seeing the world. However you see the world determines the rules you allow yourself to play by. If you think having what you want has to be hard work, guess what? It will be!

By contrast, if your view of the world is that you can have your life the way you want it, and that you just need to be a bit savvy around how you go about it, you’re playing a whole different game. One in which you open up the possibility that achieving your goals is fun, interesting and taps in to you doing what lights you up…as part of the process, not just the end game.

How To Eliminate The Treadmill And Still Function In The ‘To-Do List World’

“This is all very well,” you may be thinking. “Throwing away the to-do list, and just do what I feel like. But I have responsibilities: a job to do, a business to run.”

Quite right! I agree entirely, so let me clarify something, and then give you a method that you can use to operate in the ‘real world’.

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Firstly, this isn’t about shirking your responsibilities. There are still going to be things that you need to spend time doing. However, if you start from the premise that you should only do what you do best, and can re-delegate or outsource or swap with someone to get rid of the things that are frustrating you, then so much the better.

The Three Bubble Approach

Here’s the method to get real-world results, whilst refusing to get on the treadmill. Three bubbles a day keeps the treadmill away!

  1. Decide on what you really want out of each area of your life. Maybe set a goal for your work, a goal for your relationships, one for your family and one for your health and/or spirituality. Make sure you write these down somewhere you can keep referring back to them.
  2. Each week spend some time working on these things. Let’s use the work category as an example. Imagine your goal is to get more clients. Before you start your normal work or open you emails, take a piece of paper and write on it what you want to achieve that day in terms of finding more clients. It may be that you want to call up some old contacts, or send out an email to your list, or write a few letters to prospects. Whatever it is, put one or two items on the sheet of paper in bubbles around the goal “get more clients”.
    three bubble method
    •  Now look at everything else you need to make happen that week, and decide what category they fit into: maybe managing staff, maybe delivering presentations, maybe renewing your car insurance. Whatever they are, they fit into a category. Write those on the piece of paper too, and see what category you can assign them to.
    • Here’s the tough part. Each day you want to limit yourself to three categories at the most: this is where the three bubbles comes from in the method name.
    • You see, you lose so much time and momentum by constantly switching your focus and you want to minimize this. Only working on two or three categories a day seriously amps up your ability to be productive and stay in your flow. Select your categories for today now. One of these categories should include that first thing you chose that you really wanted to achieve, but probably wasn’t already on your ‘treadmill list’.
    • Each day, you do the same thing: only ever working on two or three categories (you can pick different ones each day). Sure, there may be a number of tasks in one category, so it’s OK to plug through each of those (just have them on spokes that come out of the category bubble, like a mind map).

    The key thing to remember is there is a magic that happens when you apply all your thinking and attention to just one area you want to crack.

    Imagine What Might Be Possible For You!

    If you follow this method, what you’ll end up doing is making incremental progress on only the things that matter to you – and not the things that just take up your time. Sure, you may get the odd thing that takes you off track that you need to respond to, but as long as you have this bubble diagram of your main categories for the day, you can always have traction on the things that are important.

    What’s more, you will always remember the things that are meaningful and important to the direction you want to go in. If getting more clients is important, by using this method there is no way you are going to miss or forget about an opportunity to make some progress in this area. You will flat out get this done!

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    This is a million miles away from the treadmill to-do list you may be using at the moment. What you can probably see already is that it takes the overwhelm out of making progress on something that is important to you, whilst still juggling the other stuff that needs doing. Focusing on just your elected categories for the day allows you to park the others, guilt-free, until their allocated day.

    It’s amazing how freeing this is. Just try it and see!

    What Categories Are You Going To Work On Today?

    OK, so over to you now. What categories are you going to select to work on today? Share in the comments below. It is super motivating to share, and see how others are applying these insights.

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    Last Updated on October 28, 2021

    15 Strategies for an Effective To-Do List

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    15 Strategies for an Effective To-Do List

    One of the age-old productivity techniques around is the classic and effective to-do list, and for good reason. It’s one of the most productive ways for you and everyone else to get anything done. Whether it’s a mental list or something that you are writing down, a to-do list is an essential productivity tool.

    At the same time, it is one of the most confusing productivity tools around. Many people discredit this for various reasons and don’t believe that a to-do list is any good. But my argument is that maybe you and other people aren’t making an effective to-do list, so here we will go over how to get one done right.

    Why Is a To-Do List Important?

    Before jumping into strategies to make an effective to-do list, it’s worth knowing why you should bother making one. The first important point is that many people have been making to-do lists all wrong.

    Two of the most common mistakes are:

    • People use lists as a measurement of whether they are productive or not.
    • They put too many items on the list.

    It’s understandable why you or other people do this, though. A to-do list is a productivity tool, so it makes sense to pile on tasks. However, the brain doesn’t work that way. If you have a lot of tasks on your list, it feels like torture as the list never ends.

    At first, it can feel nice that you always have something to do, but keep in mind that you only have so much time in a day. It’s important that you place more value in quality work rather than sheer quantity.

    On that same note, if you are someone who has a tendency to seek validation, a to-do list can be tough. There will be days where you won’t get everything done due to life events. This creates unnecessary pressure and sends you into a stress whirlwind.

    When you build an effective to-do list, the main goal of these lists is to provide clarity and focus. If you’ve been doing them wrong, you may have noticed that you are focusing in on a task on your to do list and getting it done.

    This may be overshadowed by the multiple items on your list, but you are focusing on a task during a given time. You really see this in action when you consider having a shorter to-do list, though.

    I understand that a to-do list isn’t for every single person, but this focus is helpful to people when starting out. You’re still not certain about your goals or the path that you want to take. You may also struggle to determine the next step to work towards.

    A to-do list is a guide you can refer back to it whenever you need it. Furthermore, the techniques that I’ll be mentioning below will make to-do lists more effective for you.

    15 Strategies for an Effective To-Do List

    So what should be on a to-do list? What is the best to-do list system?

    You’ll begin to see how powerful a to-do list is when you consider the various strategies you can incorporate in one. This is your to-do list, so pick from the strategies below to find what suits you. If you’re not certain, don’t be afraid to experiment and mishmash several combinations.

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    Remember that the road to success is one with many branching paths, so the methods you use are your choice.

    1. Break the List Into Two Parts

    The first strategy is to break a list into two parts. These two parts are called dailies and to do’s.

    Dailies are the everyday tasks that you want to develop more. For example, if you want to make a habit out of exercising in the morning, a daily task could be following a 15-minute workout routine or going for an hour-long walk.

    Your to do’s are non-daily tasks that you need to be getting done at some point. Maybe you need to prepare a report at work or make a presentation. You can put that into your to do column.

    This is an effective strategy because it saves all the clutter that most people gravitate towards. As mentioned before, people stuff their lists, and a lot of it is usually tasks they you would do anyway, like going grocery shopping or dropping the kids off at a friend’s place.

    2. Put a Limit on Items

    If you find breaking your list into two parts too much, I’ll suggest brevity to be a virtue when making these lists. You can set any number of items, but the key is that you do have a set limit in mind. Some people have no more than seven while others go as low as three. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

    The idea behind this is to narrow in on the most important tasks that you need to accomplish that day. Of course, there are other things that you’ll be doing during the day, and that’s fine, but you want to prioritize the items that on your to do list before the day is done.

    3. Use Checklists for Complex Tasks

    If you’re already making narrow lists but are putting in tougher tasks, my suggestion is to break that task down. Whether it’s full-on steps you need to take or jotting down important details that need to be present is up to you.

    Either way, this allows you to ensure that you’re getting everything done the proper way and that you’re not missing any key details or steps.

    4. Tackle MITs First

    MIT is the “most important task.” Another way to look at this is to tackle the largest and most intimidating task first[1]. Why you want to do this goes back to how our brain works.

    You may feel compelled to do the easier tasks first before getting to the bigger task, but the problem is that these tasks—even the easy ones—drain your energy. Furthermore, if you have a really big task to complete, chances are that’s going to be on your mind over the course of the day. That means you’re spending more energy just thinking about it.

    All of that wouldn’t be a problem if that big intimidating task was dealt with first thing in the morning.

    5. Create a “Done” List

    Another interesting approach to consider is to have a “done” list. This is a list of the tasks that you’ve completed from your to-do list. Many people find it satisfying to merely cross an item off their list and be done with it, but depending on what you’re putting on those lists, a done list could be inspiring.

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    Imagine if you are someone who places above-average difficult tasks on your to-do lists, activities that require an hour or two to complete properly. This can inspire you to do more if, after a day of working, you notice just how much you accomplished over the course of the day via this list.

    6. Make Your List Easy to Spot

    From colorful paper to posting it in an obvious spot, you want your list to be in a place where you can spot it easily. Mind you, you don’t need to have this list in front of you all the time as it could create unnecessary stress. But setting it to one side is a nice idea—a glance to the side and you know exactly what needs to get done.

    7. Add Gaming Elements to It

    If pen and paper isn’t your thing when making to-do lists, there are several apps that can guide you along as well. The beauty of to -do list apps is that there is more room for creativity, and some of the developers incorporate games into them.

    For example, Todoist has an achievement system where individuals earn badges as they complete more tasks. There’s also Bounty Tasker, which makes you feel like your tasks are side quests in a video game.

    8. Give Yourself Deadlines

    Work expands to fill time allotted.

    It’s an old philosophy that still rings true with how we are productive. For example, say you’re assigned to write a report, and you’re given a week to do it. You’ll likely work on it steadily throughout the week. Or if you’re a procrastinator, you’ll put it off until the night before and finish it.

    But what if you’re given that same task and only allotted an hour to complete it? You’ll likely get the report done, but you’ll prioritize the main, important points and highlight those rather than fill it with unnecessary fluff.

    The whole point of this is that with your goals and the items on your to-do list, you want to have deadlines. When it comes to to-do lists, my suggestion is to give yourself a day to complete the tasks there. This is enough pressure and incentive for you to work hard on them.

    9. Add Tasks When They’re Fresh

    Another strategy is to assign yourself tasks even when you are working on something else. Keep in mind it’s not something you have to do right now, but this can help with people who are struggling to think about what to focus on next.

    This is along the same lines as when you hear something interesting and you write it down. It’s a wise thing to do as it saves you the bother of having to dwell on that idea rather than focusing on the task at hand. It also saves you from having to recall what the task is if you’re the type to write up the next day’s to-do list at the end of the day.

    10. Be Comfortable With Revising Your To-Do List

    Depending on your overall mindset, another good strategy is to look at your to-do list and make changes to it. If you’re practicing the previous strategy, there may be a possibility that your to-do list is getting lengthy and you’re setting unrealistic expectations that you can finish it all.

    By giving yourself the opportunity to revise your to-do list, your allowing yourself to spread out your tasks rather than have them clumped up. This helps your mindset as you’re not overwhelmed by the list.

    11. Write Tasks, Not Goals

    You should have separate lists for your tasks and your goals. The idea is to not put goals on your task list at all.

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    While tasks can help you lead to your goals, goals are larger desires and not something that you can achieve over the course of the day. For example, “learn to speak French” is a goal; however, you can break that into a task by saying “read French content for 15 minutes” or “watch a movie in French.”

    This also extends to objectives, too. You can see these as milestones. Going back to the example of speaking French, an objective can be, “discuss my favorite foods with someone in French.” It’s the desired outcome that you’re looking for from your practice.

    12. Keep To-Do Lists Brief

    Here, brief means scannable in that you can quickly look over at the list and know what needs to get done. How you can do this is by focusing on the keywords of specific tasks and not dragging them out. For example, say your garage is a mess and you want to clean it up. Instead of writing a lengthy sentence, keep it short and write something like “clean garage for 30 min.” or simply “clean garage.”

    With this strategy, you’re spending less time writing the task down when making the to-do list. Furthermore, you’re relying on trigger words to get your mind to recall specific details for that task.

    13. Have Multiple Lists

    As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to have separate lists for various things, like having a separate list for goals, objectives, daily tasks, and to-do’s. Another way you can look at it is to have a system where you are consulting from three lists.

    These lists are:

    A Master List

    This is where any of your long-term goals are, things like moving to a new house, getting out of debt, or building a business. These are things that will take a year or more to accomplish.

    A Weekly Project List

    These are things that you want to accomplish by the end of the week. These are things that will move the needle slowly towards some of the items on your master list. From the previous example, these could be doing research on getting a business loan, house hunting, or setting up a savings account.

    A High-Impact List

    Lastly, these are tasks that need to be accomplished today. Whether they are related to the previous two lists or not doesn’t matter. This is where high priority tasks are placed. Examples can be calling specific people or working on a project or a report that’s due soon.

    By having these lists in place, you’ll be referring often to the weekly project list and the high-impact list and determining whether a weekly task should be moved to that list.

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    As you do that, you’ll begin to notice how much your daily life has an impact on those goals that are written on that master list. That can be inspiring since what you are doing is actively bringing you closer to your goals.

    14. Don’t Ramp up Difficulty Until You’re Ready

    Some of the strategies mentioned can seem easy on the surface, but they require a lot of mental fortitude. Motivation is an unusual thing, and our brains are wired to process a certain way. If you’re looking for genuine change and something that sticks, the best principle is to keep things simple and easy at first.

    It may be a drag, but you don’t often realize how those baby steps can play a crucial role in you being able to start running and chasing your dreams. Don’t be ashamed if you have to start off with simple tasks for yourself. Even going back to daily tasks that you do anyway like showering, doing the laundry or shopping for food is a good way to start.

    Putting those items on the list at first makes you feel like you’ve had a productive day. From there, you can challenge yourself with more difficult tasks. Incorporate an exercise routine or spend a half-hour on a task that means something to you.

    The idea is to ease yourself into a routine so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

    15. Measure Your Time

    The last strategy that can help you is to measure your time. How long does it take you to finish a specific task? You don’t need to go for specifics, but make a point of timing yourself over the course of a week and get the average time spent on that task.

    Why is this important? This information can be broken down in two ways.

    The first way is to use it as a marker to boost efficiency. Depending on the task, you can find new ways to achieve the same results in a shorter time.

    It also allows you to know what you can do in a given day. If you know that it takes you an hour or so to go through your entire morning routine, you’ll be more conscious about how you move through that routine.

    Furthermore, if you know what tasks you’ll be doing the next day, you can better manage your time since you know roughly how much time it’ll take to get everything done.

    Final Thoughts

    Building an effective to-do list is not as easy as it seems.

    There are all kinds of unique strategies to try out, some more challenging that others. However, if you are motivated to use this productivity tool to make your life easier, then it will get easier.

    All that you need to do is keep putting effort and experiment and reevaluate when necessary. So get started with your to-do lists today.

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    More Tips on Using an Effective To-Do List

    Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews Digital Content Production via unsplash.com

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