To do lists are a great tool to get things done. Everyone has them in some form or another. Maybe you use an app like Wunderlist, a piece of paper you keep folded in the back of your pocket, the back of a napkin, a tool like Trello, or maybe you practice the ever popular “I won’t forget to do this” technique and keep everything in your head (least effective method btw).
I used all of these methods (and those specific tools too).
Anyways, as great as they are, they can be unwieldy and stress inducing. Looking at a jam packed to do list can stress you out. There’s so much going on and you’re not even sure where to start.
And it’s bizarre because you write everything down and organize it in a to do list to help you get things done. But when it’s all over the place it does the opposite! And you sit there and freeze up and say
“I just don’t have the energy today, I can do this stuff tomorrow...I’ll just order some pizza and play Fortnite, yeah that’s a good plan”
And things don’t get done, you procrastinate and it only gets worse.
So what’s a wishful to-doer to do? How do we put down the PS4 controller, finish the pizza and get to being productive (so we can get back to video games without the guilt we should be doing something else :)
Well first let’s look at the problems with to do lists:
1. Too Much Variability
This is a common problem - there’s too much going on in your to do list. Nowadays we all have multiple things going on. Work, school, career, side hustle, family, personal projects, your friends wedding, adulting (like when you quit your job and have to sign up for COBRA, or simple things like checking the mail, taking out the garbage, feeding yourself). All the while you just want to keep on top of your Fortnite challenges (okay that’s just me).
What that means is everything you need/want/should/could/possibly do ends up in your to do list. Not only does that make for a super long to do list (I'll talk about that next) but what it means is you have so many items mixed together without any organization.
Urgent items are mixed in with trivial tasks, work stuff is mixed in with family stuff. Vague reminders sandwiched between actionable tasks. Ugh, it's amazing we even get anything done.
2. Too Long
And when you try to do everything and be the Productivity Champ you end up with a tooooooooooo long to-do list is. Too many items. You capture every thought and idea as a task to do. Ever hear of decision paralysis? You have so many options it’s hard to choose. Your to-do list has a billion items on there and you don’t know where to start.
And I hear you yelling at me right now "but if I don't write everything down I'll forget it!" I'm with ya - it's good to capture everything. I do it too and it’s the right thing to do, but there’s definitely a wrong way to do it.
3. Not Clear What To Do
When you have one long list of things to do you just hastily put things in there without giving it much thought.
“Oh I should look up high protein, low carb recipes, get some ideas, and put together a shopping list for Sunday’s grocery shopping. I’ll cook it Sunday night and meal prep so I’m good to go for the week”
Sounds great, except when you put it in your to do list you only write “Recipes”
Recipes - what does that even mean? Yeah it’s clear what it is now because you read the last two paragraphs but when you write this down on a Wednesday and don’t look at it until Monday and you forget what it even meant.
Look up recipes, create your own, look at bookmarked recipes, maybe you wanted to look up recipes for your own grilling sauce - you were thinking about that lately.
Oh yeah, I wanted to get high protein/low carb meal ideas, grocery shop, cook, meal prep. I wanted to do that Sunday. And now it’s Monday. Oops.
If it's not clear what to do there’s no action taken.
A simple checklist helps with this.
- Look up high protein/low carb meals
- Add items to grocery list
- Go grocery shopping
- Cook on Sunday
- Meal prep for the week
I’m a fan of checklists. They make it simple and you don’t have to worry about writing out full sentences (time is money, yo).
Solution: Prioritize | Reduce | Organize
The first step is identifying the problems which we did here - we can eat pizza and play Fortnite now (kidding!).
To solve for these problems look at ways you can prioritize, reduce, and organize.
Prioritize what’s important and keep those items in a priority list. Organize your items into categories. Of if you use an app or a tool like Trello, tag your items so you can filter and sort. This will help clear your thinking. And finally reduce - remove unnecessary items or low priority items. When you try to do everything, nothing gets done.
Stick around on this site - I’ll talk about what you can do and how to structure your to do lists in way to ratchet up the productivity. Smash that like button, I mean….smash your email in the sign up box. That doesn’t sound as cool but you get the idea - sign up to see more!
Or, if you're reading this and it’s something I posted like months ago click around to see more posts, or if I started to advertise click on those, then come back and click on another one, and do it again and again and again. Never stop. Unless you stop to buy a Snowball Goal Planner.
OK Im done. Deuces peeps.
If you like this consider checking out my e-book Productive Like A PRO. It’s on Amazon yo.