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Part 1: Why talk about to-do lists?

…because we want to live with intention – not reaction.

We create lists to help us organize tasks, manage our time, and get things done – but a bad list can actually hinder our productivity. If you want a more detailed read on the power of a successful to-do list, read the book To Do List Formula by Damon Zahariades.

So, what is a to do list supposed to accomplish?

1.     Control your workday

2.     Meet deadlines

3.     Prioritize what is important

4.     Reduce emotional reacting and false urgency through time management

5.     Help you get more done in less time…

6.     Allows you to get the right things done by focusing on high-value activities

7.     Reduce Stress

8.     Improve focus

9.     Eliminate frustration and guilt

The statistics:

·        41% of items on our list are never completed.

·        50% are accomplished in a day.

·        18% are accomplished in an hour.

·        10% can be accomplished in a minute or two.

The truth:

·        Many of our to-do lists are ineffective.

·        They fail to specify how long something will take.

·        We pick the easy stuff instead of the right stuff.

·        The list is too long.

·        It’s not matched with our schedule or availability.

Reasons Your to Do List Fails

1.     We misunderstand the goal of to-do lists. They should help organize your tasks and projects and highlight the important stuff – not complete every task you can imagine.

2.     We neglect to assign deadlines – deadlines help prioritize and are the enemy of procrastination.

3.     Our lists are too long. They become distracting, unrealistic, discouraging and they encourage procrastination because you fail daily to complete the list. A brain dump list only works if you categorize by priority and urgency.

4.     Too much variability in scope. 3-minute items are listed with 3-week items. High priority is mixed with low priority. Unrelated projects are listed together. This list takes you longer to choose what to do and creates anxiety and avoidance.

5.     Too many options create decision fatigue as the day goes on. You end up avoiding decisions and spending time on non-critical items.

6.     We neglect to add context for each task. Our lists need time estimates, priority, and the role within the project/goal. For example, if you don’t know if all the resources are available, you can’t begin the work.

7.     The tasks are too broadly defined and too large in scope with no starting or ending point. Projects should be broken down into steps to address a singular objective. Narrowly designed tasks have an easily defined start and finish. For example, “Build a website” is too broad and can be broken down into smaller steps.

8.     Tasks are not linked to goals. Goals spur us to action, so our lists should attach a specific goal to each action to increase our motivation to complete them.

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