Research shows that people who work from lists are 25% more productive than those who do not. For this reason, coaches and management experts advise that we use lists in order to increase our productivity. However, the question is how often do you accomplish your to do list? When it comes to these lists, some people are on one end of the spectrum while others are on the other. However, the truth is when used well, to do lists can keep one organised and on top of their game.
Below I share five simple but effective ways that can enable you to effectively accomplish your to do list.
Always begin with a big picture in mind
Before you roll your eyes on this hear me out. You know how you go to make your list and begin writing all sorts of things on it and before you know it you have 20+ things. Sometimes this sabotages your success in the long run.
I find that it helps when you begin with the end or the big picture in mind. Start by asking yourself what do I want to achieve this week or for this particular period? Like with goal setting, it helps if your dream big but plan small. In view of this, I think it is better to begin with what your goal for the week or for a particular period is. After this, each day will be planned based on what you want to accomplish that week or period. You will find that this not only keeps your list short and manageable but it also enables you to group like things together which helps you to work well.
Begin with your most favorite task on the list
This goes against advise from one of my favorite motivational speakers Brian Tracy who advises that you begin with least favorable tasks. However, I find that when you begin with what you love, it helps to build momentum. This then pushes you to tackle the rest of the items on the list. However, you have to be careful with how you use this tip. Do not allow yourself to get lost into something that you love. Instead focus on getting it done fast. This will not only ensure that you check off a task but will also motivate you to keep going.
Find your most productive time and use it well
Another way that you can accomplish your to do list is by knowing when you are most productive. Each of us has a time when our energy levels are high and we are most alert. When you discover what your most productive time is, you can be able to use it to your advantage. For some people it is very early in the morning while everyone is still asleep or before the office gets busy. Other people work better late when everyone is either sleeping or has left the office.
What matters is that you discover what your prime time is and use it well. Prime time can be internal that is when you work best. It can also be external and that is when the people you need to interact with are available. This could be your customers or clients or supervisors. The key is to find out what your internal and external prime time is and make good use of it.
Work in blocks of time
Time blocking is a very effective way to work and will enable you to accomplish your to do list. The way it works is that you work in chunks of time. You begin by structuring your day so that you set aside blocks of time to handle the important tasks. You can also use time blocking to handle routine tasks like checking and responding to emails.
Using time blocking calls for always beginning with the big picture in mind. When you ensure that each day you have 1 – 2 tasks that will contribute to your overall weekly goals, you can then set aside 60 – 90 minutes of uninterrupted time to work on those tasks.
Time blocking is also good because it allows you to take breaks before you engage on the next task. The result is not only a list that is checked but also an energized person because you kept taking breaks.
Guard your list
Finally, perhaps the most effective way to ensure that you accomplish your to do list is being intentional about what gets on the list. Like Peter Drucker said, “people are effective because they say NO!”. The shorter you keep your list, the more chances you will have it checked off.
Most people find it hard to say no because they look at it as denying the person who is presenting the request. However, when you learn how to separate the two then, you will find it easy to decline some requests. Greg Mckeown tells us that “essentialists choose no more often than they say no”. He then advises us to use statements like “I am flattered that you thought of me but am afraid I do not have the band width to handle that task”.
Secondly, another way of guarding your list is how you structure it in the first place. If you have a goal that will involve several steps before it is completed break it up. Instead of putting the task as complete project xyz. You can start by saying work on items 1 & 2 of project xyz. At the end of the day you can check this off and then set another target for the next day. This enables you to eat that big elephant one bit at a time and before you know it you would have accomplished the entire task.
The final way to guard your list is to remember less is more and be intentional with it. Michael Hyatt has some good advise for ensuring this. If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do not put it on the list just do it!
As simple as that, five ways you can ensure that you accomplish your to do list. Begin with the big picture, work on your most favorite task first, make use of your prime time, work in blocks of time and ensure that you guard your list by being intentional with what gets on it.
What about you, what are some of the ways you ensure that you accomplish your to do list? Please share in the comments section.
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