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What Does Your Task List Say About You

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What Does Your Task List Say About You

Hello there! I am your task list. I am one of the biggest contributors to your overall productivity, and I have something to tell you. Now hear my voice!

1. But I don’t have a task list!

Do you actually like being reactive and constantly in fire-fighter mode? Not having a task list probably causes you to have problems seeing the big picture and setting priorities in your life. When was the last time when you felt truly proud of your accomplishments?

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2. But I have problems accessing it!

Think about any moment of the day. Home. Work. Shopping. How long does it take you to access your task list? Does it take five seconds, or maybe a minute or two? “I need to go upstairs, open my laptop, log in, open a browser, log into this great portal and then I have it”. Face it, you are rarely using it, and you don’t really believe it is helping you. It helps you to avoid forgetting things, but it has never actually made you productive.

3. But there isn’t any fun!

Scan through your list of tasks. Be honest: are you experiencing any positive emotions? Do you feel any excitement about any of these? If not, let’s face it–you are just living a boring life. Your face is probably sad for most of the day, and you probably read a lot about this “procrastination” stuff. Think of ways you could add some fun to your tasks, and you will immediately notice the difference!

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4. But I do not know what to do!

Look at every task on your list. If you were supposed to complete any of these tasks right now, would you know exactly what to do? If not, it means you are too quick. You can catch a glimpse of an idea, but you never get down to structure, and thus, the tasks lack clarity and precision. They are just floating on the surface. If you just slowed down a little bit and worked on details, your tasks would call for an action. Otherwise, your list just becomes a home for old tasks.

5. But there are so many old tasks!

Now think about the moment when you added each of the tasks to the list. What is the average age of each task? If it is weeks or months rather than days, you are probably a great planner, but you’re not being realistic. Your favorite word may be “tomorrow” or “later”. The thing you desperately need is to be clear and precise, to add more fun or to simply SIT DOWN AND DO IT RIGHT NOW!

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6. But I don’t know what is most important!

Open your task list and explain to others what the difference between “urgent” and “important” is? If you can’t, you probably have never sat down and established priorities in your life and in your work. When picking the next task to execute, you simply take the most urgent first. The truth is, without priorities you can be good, but you will never be great.

7. But I don’t have any “Done” category!

When you finish your task, it immediately disappears from the list. You probably like to run fast, but you do not stop or slow down to do any kind of retrospection on the last week, month or year. Are you sometimes doing the same mistakes over and over again? What if you spent just five minutes going over the list of tasks you accomplished last week and delete them just after? This is a great way to be proud of yourself and actually learn something.

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8. But I do not track delegated tasks!

Do you simply delete tasks that were delegated to others? Then you are probably a “not my problem” type of person and people rarely trust your accountability. Or maybe you keep track of the tasks forever and ask about updates every day. Now you know why people are so annoyed with you. Ideally, you should keep track of the delegated tasks and react only when necessary.

Now spend one more minute looking at your task list, is there anything more that it is trying to tell you?

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More by this author

Piotr Nabielec

Author, CEO, Consultant

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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