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Why “To-Do” Lists Don’t Work, and How to Change That

Why “To-Do” Lists Don’t Work, and How to Change That

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a “to-do” list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

“To-do” lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. The same with “to-do” lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Most people find that general to do lists don’t work because:

–      They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do

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–      They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list

–      They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it

–      There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks, etc

However, there are many advantages working from a “to-do” list:

–      You have clarity on what you need to get done

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–      You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind

–      It helps you to prioritize your actions

–      You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything

–      You feel more organized

–      It helps you with planning

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Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

  1. Categorize: Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down. For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more then 7 or 8 tasks on each one. It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

2.    Add estimations: You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively. Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3.    Prioritize: To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences. Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.    Review. To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

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For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there onto a list now that you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on December 7, 2018

10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

How big is the gap between you and your success?

What is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?

It is as simple as this: successful people think and talk about what they are creating, and unsuccessful people focus on and talk about what they’re lacking.

So how do you bridge that gap between wanting success and having your success? Let’s make an important distinction. You see, there is a big difference between “Wanting” and “Having” something.

Wanting: means lacking or absent. Deficient in some part, thing or aspect.

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Having: means to possess, to hold, to get, to receive, to experience.

You can have one OR the other, but not both at the same time with any particular object of your desire. You either have it or you don’t.

When it comes to your subconscious, if you’re focusing on the “wanting”, i.e. the not having, guess what, you will build stronger neural networks in your brain around the “wanting.” However, through the power of your subconscious mind, you can focus on the “having” as if it has already happened. Research has shown that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you’re visualizing inside your mind versus what is happening out there in your reality.

This is a regular practice of elite athletes. They spend as much timing creating the internal mental imagery of their success playing out as they do actually physically practicing. This helps create both the neural pathways in their brain and the muscle memory to consistently deliver on that success.

Here are 10 “brain hack” steps for success that you can take to create your version of a happy life. Make these steps a regular habit, and you will be astonished at the results.

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Step 1: Decide exactly what you want to create and have

This is usually the biggest problem that people have. They don’t know what they want and then they’re surprised when they don’t get it.

Step 2: Write down your goal clearly in every technicolor detail

A goal that is not written down is merely a wish. When you write it down in full detail, you signal to your subconscious mind that you really want to accomplish this particular goal.

Step 3: Write your goal in simple, present tense words

…that a three year old can understand on a three-by-five index card and carry it with you. Read it each morning after you awake and just before you go to sleep.

Step 4: Backwards planning

See your goal achieved and identify all the steps required that it took to bring it to life. Making a list of all these steps intensifies your desire and deepens your belief that the attainment of the goal is already happening.

Step 5: Resolve to take at least one step every day from one of the items on your list

Do something every day, even if it is just one baby step, that moves you toward your goal so you can maintain your momentum.

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Step 6: Visualize your goal repeatedly

See it in your mind’s eye as though it were already a reality. The more clear and vivid your mental picture of your goal, the faster it will come into your life.

Step 7: Feel the feeling of success as if your goal were realized at this very moment

Feel the emotion of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure that you would have once you have achieved your goal. Visualize and feel this success for at least 20 seconds at a time.

Step 8: “Fake it till you make it!”

Confidently behave as if your subconscious mind was already bringing your goal into reality. Accept that you are moving toward your goal and it is moving toward you.

Step 9: Relax your mind

Take time to breathe, pray or mediate each day. Disengage the stress response and engage the relaxation response. A quiet state of mind allows your brain to access newly formed neural pathways.

Step 10: Release your goal to your subconscious mind

When you turn your goal over to the power of the universe and just get out of the way, you will always know the right actions to take at the right time.

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Starting today, try tapping into the incredible power of your subconscious mind.Start with just one goal or idea, and practice it continually until you succeed in achieving that goal. Make it a game and have fun with it! The more lightly you hold it, the easier it will be to achieve. By doing so, you will move from the “positive thinking” of the hopeful person to the “positive knowing” of the totally successful person.

Hit reply and let me know what you’re creating!

To your success!

Featured photo credit: use-your-brain-markgraf via mrg.bz

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