10 Powerful Tips for Sailing Through Your To-Do List
Is there a magic formula for powering through your to-do list?
Actually, there are several! And once you begin to apply them you can enjoy the good life – stuff gets done…on time, you finally stop spending your evenings at your desk and you can even start thinking about vacations.
Here are 10 powerful tips for sailing through your to-do list.
1. Capture everything
Recall every single task on your plate? Surprisingly, it’s better if you don’t!
Because of a psychological phenomenon called the Zeigernik Effect.
What this means it incomplete tasks will keep going through your head. These thoughts will make it hard for you to focus on the present and cause you unnecessary stress. You’ll be running with weights chained to your feet.
David Allen pointed out a simple solution. Capture all your tasks on your to-do list, even if you have a fantastic memory and don’t need any reminders. Writing it down gives your brain the liberty to forget about it, and use its limited attention to focus on the task at hand.
But how do you capture everything? Simple – use a to-do list software that also has a great mobile app!
2. Prepare your list in advance
Most people begin their day with planning. For the majority that means going through their email and creating a to-do list.
But isn’t this an irreplaceable waste of your valuable time?
Your energy is the highest in the morning. You should use those precious hours to finish off the most important task of the day. Even if you‘re a night owl, there’s nothing like a solid hour of work, first thing in the morning, to keep you supercharged throughout the day.
Prepare your to-do list the night before, and decide what task to begin your day with. It will be one of the best habits you build.
3. One place
How many places are your tasks scattered across?
For most of us, it’s a mix of email, slack, paper notes, post-its, a to-do list software, a project management software, and maybe even 2-3 attractive looking apps you discovered in the App Store!
You know what that means, right? You have to look at half a dozen places to get a complete picture of all your upcoming tasks. Here’s why this is a really bad idea:
- It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on across several sources. Some tasks would inevitably slip through the cracks. You won’t remember it unless someone follows up with you!
- Even if by some miracle, you end up keeping track of all your tasks and finishing them on time, you still end up losing time. The process of checking numerous sources can be extremely time consuming, and stressful.
- Finally, because you don’t have a unified view of your tasks, it makes it impossible for you to accurately estimate how much work you have in hand and how long it will take you to finish.
If you want to make life easier, keep all your tasks in one tool.
The solution is to get into a habit of using just one to-do list tool. Use one with a good mobile app so that you can capture tasks anywhere and anytime on your iPhone. No more noting down tasks on scraps of paper.
Avoid using your inbox as a simple to-do list! Note down all the tasks from your email to your task list application. It will save you a truckload of stress!
4. Time attributes
Nearly everyone you know uses some sort of a task list. Might be an online to-do list or a notepad.
But, practically no one does one simple thing that can make them super–productive.
Specifying time attributes. And I’m not talking about just deadlines.
Don’t just write down what you need to do. Add as many time attributes to your task as possible.
- When will you start on the task?
- During what time of the day will you work on it?
- How many minutes or hours will that task take?
Adding time attributes forces you to accurately plan how you will execute something rather than ‘hope’ that you will get it done. This will also give you a highly realistic view of what you can accomplish within a certain timeframe. You won’t overcommit.
5. Define priorities
There’s only one thing that’s certain about your day.
It’s not going to go according to plan. Something unexpected will always crop up, and threaten your deadlines.
Your best defense against unforeseen circumstances is a tiny thing called Task Priorities. Every time you create a task, assign a priority to it.
How is that supposed to help?
First, when you know your priorities, you allocate your time based on the urgency levels. If you have a vital deliverable coming up in a week, you should start on it now, rather than just a couple of days before the deadline. If you have to submit an important report by the end of the day, that’s the task you should begin your day with.
So even if something unexpected happens in the middle of the day, you don’t fail to deliver the urgent task on time.
Second, assigning priorities helps you shift gears quickly. You will be able to quickly take a decision on which tasks need the least attention, and can be rescheduled.
6. Keep re-evaluating
Remember those tasks on your to-do list that you have been putting off – repeatedly?
Procrastination can sometimes be a good thing. It can actually be a path to one of the most powerful productivity techniques – the Pareto principle.
80% of the value you generate comes from 20% of your activities.
Ask yourself – If I haven’t been doing this for a while, what kind of value will this task really generate? If the answer isn’t convincing, don’t just reschedule the task – delete it!
Any time you spend even thinking about low-value tasks is the time that you could have invested in high-value tasks.
Set aside a few minutes to evaluate your to-do list at the end of every week. Delete the tasks which don’t matter as much. Make a habit of focusing on tasks that matter the most!
7. Stress-free delegation
How do you delegate work – an email? Slack? Just say it?
The trouble with all these mediums, is that tasks can slip through the cracks. Both you and your colleague might just forget!
To save yourself the trouble, create a task or a sub-task and assign it. But you know what’s easier?
If you use ClickUp, you can just convert a comment to a task, by using the unique Assigned Comments feature. It just takes a few seconds and you don’t even have to create a new task. It’s the easiest way to delegate to other users on your team.
8. Zoom in and out
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the work that’s piled up?
Most of us have a to-do list a mile long, which doesn’t do any favors for our blood pressure.
The solution is to zoom in and zoom out.
What am I talking about?
First, break up every big task into a number of smaller subtasks. I call this zooming in because it will give you clarity into the exact sequential steps you need to take. Besides, breaking up a task into more manageable chunks makes it feel less overwhelming.
This generates small wins. Each subtask that you cross off will keep your momentum alive.
But you also need to zoom out and evaluate your tasks in the context of the bigger goals. Don’t just create tasks. Make sure that each task is part of a project.
When you know how that task is contributing to your broader goals, you ‘ll find it easier to set deadlines, determine what resources that task will need, assign priorities, and delegate the task if necessary.
Projects and subtasks give you that extra edge, so make sure you choose a to-do list software which has these features.
9. Batch process
Factories use an approach called batch processing, where similar work is clubbed together.
Why not do the same for your tasks?
If you need to make a few phone calls, you will get through them faster if you do one after another. Whenever you create a task, assign a tag to it by using the tagging feature in ClickUp.
This way, when you search for all tasks with the tag, “phone”, for instance, you will easily be able to see all the tasks you can bundle in one sitting.
You can even prepare list templates of recurring tasks that you can bundle together, and save tons of time!
10. Assign energy levels
All tasks are not created equal.
Some take far more concentration than others, which is why you just can’t do them anytime. No – you need to dedicate your most productive hours to those tasks. Unless you are a night owl, that’s going to be first thing in the morning.
There are tasks that you could do even when your brain is at its foggiest!
Productivity expert Mike Vardy recommends that you pick your tasks based on your energy levels. Whenever you create a task – assign an energy level to it – high, medium or low. You can use the tagging feature in ClickUp to assign energy levels.
When you plan your day according to your energy levels, you reach an entirely new degree of productivity.
Your to-do list isn’t just a list. It’s your productivity console built as a guideline to help you power through your day.
This article was submitted by ClickUp and originally appeared on ClickUp blog. It has been republished with permission and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork. Find out how you can publish your content on Upwork.
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