“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain
Ah, ‘to-do’ lists; the pillar of any productive day. However, making a to do list that is both achievable and leaves one with a sense of achievement is not necessarily as easy as it seems. In order to create a quality ‘to-do’ list, you must be mindful of your habits and how you feel about the tasks at hand. For years all I did was write down all the things I needed to do with no particular regard for their achievability and in no particular order. I would then get frustrated when I didn’t get to the end of them. In fact, sometimes, even when I had finished the majority, I could still have been found slumped on the sofa bummed out that I hadn’t finished the whole lot. Resonate with anyone? Well, no more! Here is a guide on how to compose a mindful and successful ‘to-do’ list.
1. Don’t Overstretch Yourself
A long list of bog tasks is very hard to get through. The first thing to do is be mindful of your mood and your energy levels; how long are you likely to be able to sustain productivity for? A short list of jobs that has been completed is much better for the self and for your motivation to continue being productive than a half finished, over ambitious one.
2. Time Estimates
A great way to gauge how ambitious, or not, your list is, is to allot time estimates to each task. Usually they will all have been jobs that you have done before, so this shouldn’t be too tricky. Once this has been done, the list becomes much clearer and is easier to edit and structure. For example, if the list looks like it will take more time than you have, you can eliminate a few of the less urgent items. This also means that you can avoid having similarly themed, or timed jobs backing on to each other; three or four lengthy tasks in succession will be no fun at all.
Each item on your list should be a clear and simply job. Vagueness helps nobody, as it doesn’t have a clear beginning or ending. For example, ‘clean the kitchen’ could encompass a whole host of things. Instead, sub categorise this task into simpler, clearer jobs. For example; put away items on the drying rack, take out the bins, clean the counter tops. These are not only clear, but the structure and clarity of the list allows for success and completion to come more regularly. you now have three tasks to tick off instead of one (and that ‘one’ does not have a clear goal or ending).
4. Start Easy
In the same way that every marathon runner needs a warm up, every ‘to-do’ list should start gently. Don’t go running full pelt into a large or potentially stressful task, as you will burn out half way down the list. When organising the order of your list, be less concerned about priority and more concerned about pace. Start easy and build up from there, leaving larger jobs for when you have a little more momentum going.
5. Evenly Space Enjoyable Tasks
Going back to prioritising pace over, well, priority. Pace is not just time sensitive, it is tied in to how tasks make you feel. If there is one item on your list that you are absolutely dreading, then be sure to sandwich it between two things that you actually enjoy doing. This will put you in a better mood going in to the task and give you some reward once you have come out the other side of it.
6. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Sometimes, even the best written ‘do-do’ lists do not get completed. And that is OK. Don’t focus on the tasks you didn’t manage to complete, instead turn your focus on to all the brilliant productive items you did manage to tick off. We so easily settle on the negative, even if the positive outweighs it immeasurable… don’t fall in to the trap!
By Chris Thomson
Great one from the archives here that serves as a lovely compliment to what we have just been looking at. Clearing your mind is a super effective way to boost your wellbeing and workplace productivity: Declutter Your Mind and Get Back On Track With Your Workday
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