1. Go digital
The single biggest productivity tip I can offer is to write things down. People who rely on memory alone are working harder than necessary. They are likely dropping lots of balls in the process. A simple pocket notepad can make a ton of difference.
But busy people eventually find they need something more. The sheer number of obligations, plans, and follow-ups we have makes it hard to keep it all straight. Also, the daily re-writing of the list can be a chore.
In an interview with blogger Vicki Davis, I discuss seven elements to look for when selecting a digital list.
2. Identify the “Fab 5”
All tasks are not created equal. Some are must-dos for today while others can be done at any time. Look at your list and pick out the five tasks that will pay the biggest dividends. Put them at the top of the list. That way, every time you look at the list, you see the ones you already identified as being the highest priority.
3. “Batch” related items
When baking, it’s just as easy to make a batch of cookies as it is to make one. Apply the same concept throughout your life. You spend less time running errands when you save them up and run them in one batch. You spend less time on the phone when you batch those calls.
Instead of calling Sam about the one thought that just rolled across your brain, put it on the list. Later, make one phone call and handle the five or six additional items that accumulated in the meantime.
List your tasks in “batches” so that it becomes easy to go straight down the list. With a digital list, the search function makes batching a snap. For example, search for the word “call” to see all your phone calls. Every task with the word “call” appears together.
4. Make it clear
We love to do what’s easy. Make the items on your list easy to do and you almost can’t wait to get started. How do you do that? Word tasks clearly. The biggest mistake people make is to put items on the list that are not tasks at all. They are projects. Projects require multiple steps that could take days, weeks, or even months to complete. Break those projects into individual tasks that can be done in one sitting each.
Start tasks with verbs. Be sure that the task you see is the very next step, that nothing else must be done first.
You will be surprised at how much you can get done when you are no longer procrastinating on poorly-worded, overwhelming items.
5. Leverage repeating tasks
A good digital task list allows you to designate an item to repeat every year, month, week, or even every day. That’s one of the huge benefits of going digital. Say goodbye to forgetting those recurring obligations. Enter the task one time and the system does the remembering for you. When it’s time to do that task again, it’s front-and-center on the list.
Make today count
You and I have been handed a gift of 365 days for this year. It will be a year filled with opportunities and obligations. Use your to-do list to trap them, line up, and make them happen. It’s up to us to make each day count.
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