To-do lists: a waste of time or a productivity lifehack? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

To-do lists: a waste of time or a productivity lifehack?

We try to load every day to the maximum. But this is not always possible. Often there are unfulfilled tasks in the evening. The lists allow not to miss anything and to keep the time under control.

One of the important benefits of to-do lists is a strong motivation. There is no place for laziness if you fulfill the prescribed tasks. Start working with the simple assignments. After 5-10 minutes of such activity, the level of self-motivation will necessarily increase.

Also, lists open the way to creativity. Transferring the red tape to a sheet of paper, you may free the brain for more creative things.

Useful tips on how to make a task list

1. Live now

The most effective to-do list format is an operational plan for the day. It should be realistic and clear, include only those tasks which may be performed immediately. Ask yourself: ‘Can I start doing this assignment right now?’ If the answer is negative, rewrite this item.

The to-do list for the day is not at all a description of global goals. They should be written separately, and it is better to have plans for each significant target. On their basis, daily lists are drawn up. Similarly, you can compile monthly and weekly schedules.

2. Divide the tasks

With a proper compiling of the tasks, most items on the list could take not more than 10-15 minutes. But if such a detailing seems tedious to you, stop at a level of 30-40 minutes. For example, you need to update the upholstery of a sofa. You can just write ‘Call the master’. But it’s more useful to describe the whole chain:

  1. Find several ateliers.
  2. Find their phones.
  3. Find out the prices and compare them.
  4. Choose the best atelier.
  5. Call the master.

The best way to organize a to-do list is to represent it as a sequence of simple steps and to evaluate the whole picture of your activity. You can stretch all stages for several days and overcome them much faster. There is no need to spend time analyzing what to do next.

3. Choose the words carefully

Sometimes it is difficult to start acting. The delay arises not because of the complexity of the task but because of its incorrect setting. The brain likes clear instructions.

Compare, for example, two phrases: ‘To solve the problem with the phone’ and ‘To bring the phone to the master’. At first glance they are identical. But the brain will handle them differently. In the first case, we have a generalized description of the desire to do something. There is no answer to the question ‘What to do?’ Therefore, additional efforts are needed to draw up an action plan. The second option suggests a specific action. You do not need to think. Just do it.

The main purpose of the list is to allocate your time effectively to solve all the tasks assigned for the day. Each item should lead to a solution. Therefore, use the words that describe the actions as accurately as possible.

4. Sort your assignments

If you just list all the assignments, the effect will be minimal. It does not guarantee the rational use of time and the fulfillment of all important tasks. To increase the efficiency of the work, it is necessary to rank the tasks, that is, prioritize them. The ideal assistant in this is the Eisenhower matrix.

A prominent military and political figure, the 34th United States president, Eisenhower had to do a lot of things during a day. He invented this matrix to increase the labor productivity. It became his favorite planning tool.

If this technique is too complex for you, just sort the assignments by importance. The major tasks should be in the beginning. The further chain is built in descending order. Organize your work strictly according to the list.

Even if you will not have time to do everything, this will not be a trouble since the lost tasks are not very serious. For example, you need to deal with several academic disciplines. First of all, it is worth preparing for the upcoming exam. If there is no time left for anything else, you always can ask for homework help online.

5. Use a time scale

In the ideal list, a period of time must be prescribed for each item. It is often difficult to determine the exact number of minutes. In the beginning, your estimates may differ from the real result. But gradually the experience will be accumulated. You will indicate more precise intervals.

First of all, the time graduation allows assessing the possibility of realizing the plans. A simple list of tasks can be deceiving. To verify the reliability of the schedule, it is enough, to sum up, all the figures. If the performance of tasks takes much longer than you expected, the list should be reviewed. In any case, the 25th hour will not appear in a day.

The second big plus of a timeline is the effective organization of working hours. For example, if you coped with a task 15 minutes before the prescribed time, you can use this gap for a new assignment which needs the same interval.

Online list management services

Modern technologies have become excellent assistants in daily planning. Smartphones allowed to move away from paper red tape. With the help of special services, you can conduct many different lists. They always will be on hand.

There are very simple programs and real ‘monsters’ that allow groups to work on several projects simultaneously. By the way, even in everyday life, it is sometimes important to have a shared access to the list. For example, a wife can always write down the products to be bought. Her husband will make purchases in the evening in accordance with the received instructions.

Some services contain encouraging options to increase motivation. Most often users get bonuses for performing a task. There are also other incentives, but what can be better than a feeling of a task being accomplished?


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