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Is Your To-Do List a Mess? Try These 6 Steps To Make It Useful Again

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Is Your To-Do List a Mess? Try These 6 Steps To Make It Useful Again

Has your to-do list lost its oomph? Is it more overwhelming than effective?

Have no fear!

This article is going to help you make the most of your to-do list so you can make the most of what you want to achieve.

Pick the Right Medium

Whether you use sticky notes or a fancy app on your smart phone, there’s no wrong medium. It is important, however, that you pick the medium that’s right for you. Lacey M. of Falmouth, MA is a veteran Post-It Note list maker but when she’s on the go, she uses ColorNote, an iPhone app.

Begin With the End in Mind

What’s your desired end state? Is there something you want to achieve or accomplish? If you have no end result in mind your to-do list may look more like a wish list. Think about your desired state for a few minutes. Perhaps you want to write a book or double your income or generate more sales revenue or find five new clients.

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Break it Down

With your end result clearly stated, what tasks or steps are necessary to help you move forward? Write them down in order of priority. For example, if your end result is to write a book, your high level to-do list may look something like this:

  1. Create a chapter outline
  2. Create 3-5 points to cover for each chapter
  3. Create a time plan
  4. Find an accountability partner
  5. Complete first draft
  6. Edit book
  7. Revise book
  8. Decide how to publish book
  9. Traditional publishing – create and send out query letters
  10. Self publishing – determine publishing platform
  11. Publish book
  12. Celebrate

Find a To-Do List System

You may have multiple to-do lists. That’s okay. Most of us do. Finding a to-do list system that works for you is a key ingredient that helps you manage your to-do’s rather than having your to-do’s manage you.

Timothy Barchard, 7th degree black belt and owner of a Professional Martial Arts Academy, uses the PAR3 system and on a daily basis writes down:

  • 3 things he must get done
  • 3 things he should get done
  • 3 things he would like to get done

“Without it,” Barchard states, “I get nothing done.”

I use Brendon Burchard’s One Page Productivity Planner, which helps me identify:

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  • Top 3 Priorities or Projects for the week
  • 3-5 things that must get done for each project by the end of the week
  • Person she must reach out to during the week
  • People she’s waiting on to deliver or respond to her by the end of the week
  • #1 most important thing that must get done during the week, no matter what

In addition to the one page productivity planner, I prints out my daily calendar for the work week and staple it behind my completed planner. Scheduled meetings must be in alignment with my top 3 priorities for the week. Everything gets done and my to-do list is manageable and do-able.

At work, Laurie M. of Londonderry, NH, divides things into “big rocks” and “little rocks” and she writes them in her daily planner. She explains that “big rocks equal what must get done today. Little rocks equal what she would like to get done today but no fire will be created if it doesn’t get done.”

Cross it Off

Most people want to feel productive. I bet you do, too. Crossing off a completed task on your to-do list creates a sense of accomplishment. Maureen M. of Derry, NH loves to “cross things off with a pink highlighter.” Lynn S. of Tewksbury, MA enjoys feeling productive when she crosses things off her to-do list. And some people will add something they did to their to-do list just so they can cross it off.

Stay Focused

One thing that will derail nearly every to-do list is either a lack of focus or your latest and greatest shiny object distraction. One way to regain control of your to-list is to simply fill in the blanks each day:

The most important thing I need to do for my personal life today is

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_______________________________

The most important thing I need to do for my professional life today is

_______________________________

The most important thing I need to do for my social life today is

_______________________________

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The most important thing I need to do for my physical well being today is

_______________________________

The most important thing I need to do for my spiritual life today is

_______________________________

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear what works for you…How do you keep your to-do list from running amok?

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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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