3 Ways to a Better To Do List

You won’t get things done by simply making a list. According to a lot of effective front runners a to do list is the way to get your days more productive, organized and focused, but might there be a correct way and an incorrect way to make a to-do list?

In short, yes.

By thoroughly listing all the things that need to be completed will not help you to actually achieve them. Therefore, if you hope to make your life more productive, organized and focused, use these three indispensable ways to create an improved list of things to do.

1. Breakdown projects in smaller controllable tasks

We all feel frustrated when we have a deadline or a truly big project looming. We get the nagging feeling that the task is impossible to do and we don’t know where to begin. This nagging feeling is actually called the Zeigarnik effect. Bulma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist, first observed this feeling of inner preoccupation and tension when someone had an uncompleted task, in the 1920s. It was curious to him that waiters would much more easily remember a complicated order before it was filled than afterwards.

The only solution to lighten this anxiety is to break the project down into small, actionable tasks and then to plan what the next step will be to finish the project. For example, when next you have to deliver a presentation, start by highlighting different themes in the presentation and tackle the themes one-one.

2. Take on the most hated task first

According to Mark Twain one should make sure the first thing you eat in the morning is a life frog (do the tough tasks first), then you will be assured that nothing worse can happen to you all day long. Translated into today’s terms this will encompass that we tackle the important things first before we get side-tracked with social media and checking emails.

Classify the important tasks that will need your full attention – those usually left until days end when you are tired. After identifying these tasks, rearrange your daily routine to ensure that you work uninterrupted on these for an hour or so at the beginning of your day.

3. Compose a list of completed tasks

An encouraging approach, opposing the traditional to-do-list, is to compose a list of tasks completed. This will apparently give you a sense of achievement and will branch into productivity through the week. Making another separate list of completed tasks even if they weren’t on the original task list, according to Joel Gascoigne, will terminate the feeling of being hit by the realization that you are busy with some task not on the original list.

Without the task completed list it is easy to feel that time is being detracted from that allocated to the original task list whenever doing something that is not on this list and it then actually doesn’t “count.” Even if the task being done is useful, important and the fact that doing it will lead to considerable returns.

As you organize your daily and weekly task in the next week or so, put the abovementioned tips to test and you will experience more effective task listing. Use these tips to hack that set-in-stone to-do list and see if you can improve on your productivity.

Finally, using some form of software can help you in making a better to do list .. but you need to be committed to using it, adhering to the deadlines and keeping it updated. Here, at Out of the Office, we use Asana, which was greatly revamped, upgraded and improved last week. While there are a myriad of to do list and project management tools out there, I have found that Asana works best for our needs and the needs of our clients. Speaking of .. I’ll be talking today at 12.00p ET at IVAA’s Recource Recess. Topic: How to Keep your Clients’ Tasks Organized with Asana. Feel free to register to join in.

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Image credit: bohed | CC0 Public Domain