“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” ~Unknown
Let’s face it, we are all guilty of procrastinating. We know we should be more productive at work, as well as at home (spring cleaning, anyone?) and we read endless life hacks to help us overcome our bad habits – like scrolling mindlessly through Facebook instead of writing that report. But, how often do we incorporate these tricks and tips into our daily lives and actually see a measurable change?
With that in mind, here are four easy steps to maximize your productivity that you’ll be able to stick to:
1. Top 5: List out your daily top 5
Set yourself up for success. Every night, list out the top five most important tasks to move you towards your top goals. This is not your errands or shopping list. Include only the most important tasks related to your top goals.
Making a list of 20 actions isn’t really manageable and will most likely set you up for failure, reinforcing that feeling that you can never get everything done and that there just isn’t enough time in the day. This negative reinforcement will lead to ”forgetting” that you even had a list or avoiding it all together. Keep it short and simple.
2. Add a detailed verb to every action item
Now that you’ve got your list, you’ll want to add a detailed verb to every action item and possibly a timestamp, as well.
For example- instead of writing your list like this:
Give it some direction:
- Clean desk and file all papers
- Email Gaston the proposal
- Spend 30 minutes writing newsletter
3. First things first
First, decide which how you want to the tackle the various tasks. Do you want to start out on the biggest, most daunting project or just start on that small annoying thing you’ve been avoiding? Notice when a certain task on your list seems to constantly roll over to the next day and then the next. Let this one you’re avoiding be the first task on your list. Don’t check email, make phone calls, stare inside the fridge or find other distractions. Once you have accomplished this, you will be energized to accomplish the rest of your list. After all, you know you will have to do it by the end of the day, so might as well take care of it first.
4. Go old school
Keep your list on one piece of paper. Not multiple lists for different tasks. Just one that is easily accessible. No, not like the one on your cell phone. “A to-do list is useless on your phone,” says professor Michelle Eskritt, an expert who studies the effect of note-making on memory at Mount Saint Vincent University. The computer won’t cut it either.
According to technology writer Nicholas Carr, “The medium does matter. A book focuses our attention, isolates us from the myriad distractions that fill our everyday lives. A networked computer does exactly the opposite.”
When you’re on your phone or computer you are still subject to the constant pings and dings of text, calls and notifications. The most successful people use pen and paper. Simple, yet most people are not using to-do lists correctly.
Try it out for a week and see how your habits can quickly change and rest easy knowing you accomplished what you set out to do.
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