Have you ever felt like your to-do list grows at speeds beyond humanly possible? As if you get one thing done and five more are added out of nowhere? The never-ending to-do list is one of my arch nemeses and I’ve been determined to win this war. I’ve tried every trick in the book from brain dumping everything onto paper, to cutting back on unnecessary distractions to time blocking— you name it, I’ve tried it. After many failed attempts and research on the best strategies, I think I’ve finally nailed it. I don’t really like long intros so let’s cut to the chase, here are my 3 tips for saving time and increasing productivity.
First things first, it’s not about getting more things done, it’s about getting the right things done. If you pulled out your to-do list right now I bet you’d find about 50% of the list are things you want to do, but don’t actually need to do. Don’t get me wrong, wanting to reorganize your closet or produce another digital product for your online business is great, and also time consuming…Instead of brain dumping everything into one large, overwhelming list, I’ve found that creating multiple lists helps me prioritize and get more done. Usually it goes like this: the first list consists of the absolute MUST do things (often the things we are procrastinating because they suck our souls and we don’t want to do them). This could be scheduling a dentist appointment, or filing taxes— again things that MUST be done. The second list are things I really want to do and probably should do for the sake of my sanity, like reorganize my closet or clean out the garage. The third list are all the things that would be nice to do, but not urgent or necessary.
Now take a good, hard look at that third list. What can you eliminate? What has been on the list for forever and a day that you never to get around to? What item doesn’t even seem satisfying to complete anymore? For me that was jujitsu. I really wanted to sign up at some point but so many things came up and eventually the desire faded. I know there is a negative psychological effect that comes with taking something off the list that you didn’t come around to, but think of it more as tabling for later, or moving it from the to-do to the wish list. Essentially you are decluttering your to-do list and focusing on what needs to get done and what will bring you the most satisfaction once it is done.
Set realistic targets.
Let’s be honest, even after you’ve pared down your list, it might still be overwhelming. At this point it’s important to set realistic targets for yourself. In other words, what are your expectations for how and when you will get these things done? Personally, I limit my weekly goal to doing 3 things off my to-do list. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but hear me out; setting my targets to 3 things per week gives me the confidence and flexibility to accomplish my goal while not feeling pressured and time strapped. Maybe that number is five for you or maybe it’s one. Remember, it is more important to get the right things done than to get the most things done. Using this approach shifts the focus from quantity to quality.
Bonus: My secret to getting the MUST DO things done first.
Even with prioritized lists, it’s easy to slip into the “well I’ll just do this first because it’s easier” mentality. To ensure I get my important things done, I pick 2 things from my MUST do list and one thing from my “really want to do” list each week. The trick is that only once the first two MUST do items are complete do I move on to my “really want to do” item. It’s a little mind trick— I am signaling to myself that I did a good job by completing my 2 hard tasks first and now I can “reward” myself by doing my “really want to do” task (plus once I do that one, I will have met my goal for the week!).
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Cat Marte is a Success Coach who helps success driven people launch and grow their online businesses. Book your free introductory coaching call today.