Clearly, most of us are on board with keeping to-do lists, but finishing them is a different story. So we spoke with productivity experts to figure out not only how best to plow through our lists, but also whether there’s a best type of list out there to begin with. And then, just to make you feel a little less alone, we snagged a look at the looming lists of four real, aspiring list-finishers. Documenting the people and things that need our attention isn’t so much of a challenge in itself—the tricky part is checking off tasks without that “I haven’t accomplished today!” feeling. To keep moving forward, keep these four expert tips in mind:
1. Maintain one master list
Ken Zeigler, a productivity and time management expert who has conducted over 16 years of research in the field, suggests a master list, a portable pad of paper (he finds the old-school medium most effective for retention) where you keep all to-do items (whether financial, personal or professional) for an entire week. When you have a thought, write it down immediately, then delete it from your mind. “Allow your mind to be a strategic thinker,” he says, “not a memory chip.”
2. Batch your tasks
The next step in Zeigler’s process is to review your master list daily and transfer action items onto a daily list, which should be in electronic form to make it easily portable and accessible from multiple devices. This list should be batched, or separated, into groups of similar tasks (like the three separate emails you must answer in the next hour or the five errands you need to run in town). Zeigler explains that batching tasks improves productivity. “By working on all of the similar tasks, it will prevent your jumping from task to task and help you focus on one type at a time,” he says. RELATED: Does Work-Life Balance Actually Exist?
3. Work toward larger goals
Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get The Right Things Done, has created his own method for a list that tackles not just the minutiae of daily life, but your larger goals. It’s called the “18 Minutes to-do list.” To get started, you identify no more than five goals for the year—both personal and professional—and generate your daily to-dos keeping those annual goals in mind. Of course, there is space for the unavoidable minutiae, which is called the other 5 percent, because according to Bregman, you shouldn’t be spending more than 5 percent of your time on these tasks.
4. Set an expiration date for each to-do
When setting yourself up for success, next week isn’t an effective time limit. “There’s a tremendous amount of research that points to the fact that if you decide when and where you’re going to do something, you’ll do it,” says Bregman. If items stay on your list for more than three days, Bregman gives you three options: Do it right away, put it on your calendar for a specific time in the future (place the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day), or delete it. (via How to Make a Better To-Do List ~ Levo League)
Kanban boards offer a way to visually manage your work. If you have ever used a post-it note to remind yourself to do something, you’ve used visual management. Visual management allows teams to see work in progress and understand complex information like processes, task relationships and risks related to a team’s ability to complete work on time. (via Why Use Kanban Boards | LeanKit)
Lists and lists of things to do - Finally getting some of it done✔️😁👍 #work #makeupstudio #makeupartist #productivity #today #procrastination
Recently, I told a group of graduate students that it’s possible to finish a dissertation and have a happy scholarly career while working 9 to 5. I think they were cheered and shocked, and I only later realized there might have been a lot of confusion. It’s hard to talk about working hours and academics partially because we have what others have called a culture (perhaps even cult) of “busyness,” partially because of the collapse of the 40-hour work week, and partially because academic work is a gas that will expand to fill all the time available.
So here is an attempt to clarify.
Lists don’t have to be strictly business: they can work as cheat sheets too!
The simple truth, as Robert Fulghum says, is that “the grass is greenest where it is watered.” All this time I had been frantically flinging water over fences onto grass in the distance.
This realization fundamentally changed how I approach “self-improvement” and any changes that I want to make in my life.
I am still very open to wisdom, wellness philosophies, and inspiration of many kinds, and I’m grateful for the education and perspective this whole journey has brought me. However, I am now wholly focused on practicing it, being it, and enjoying it right now.
Instead of setting resolutions and working toward them, my goals are for how I want to be each day and each moment, how I want to feel about myself, how I want to value my environment and the people and opportunities in my life now.
Although I get this shift 100% mentally, the truth is that it is not always easy to practice—it goes against a lifetime of mental habits! To help me make this shift any time, I have created a set of tools and practices based around active questions.