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10 Ways to ACTUALLY Get Through Your To Do List

Managing Your To-Do List

We start out each day with the best intentions to get it all done, but sometimes it feels like the world may be conspiring against us. As entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals, we have a myriad of tasks on our plate at any given moment, not to mention trying to balance this workload with your personal life. If you’re looking for a few ways to help you actually cut through the fluff and get your real work done, try out these ten tips:

1. Just do it!
This is probably the simplest way to start getting more things done. Instead of spending time debating what you should be doing, pick one thing and just do it. Then pick another and do it. Don’t worry about what’s next on your list or the other things that need your attention. They’re not going anywhere. Just focus on the one task at hand. You may be surprised at how well this simple approach works.

2. Work in chunks of time.
You may not be able to block of an entire half or whole day for your project or tasks. However, you should be able to squeeze in 60 to 90 minutes sessions of work. At the start of each day, look over your to-do list and start grouping your tasks into 60 -90 minute chunks of activity. Then schedule in as many of these productivity chunks into your schedule that you can. During those time periods make sure you work without distractions. Afterwards, take a break and do something else such as return phone calls, answer emails, etc. When you’re ready, start your next 60- 90 min chunk of time. This method works really well when your day has scattered phone calls and conference meetings. It helps you turn those in-between times into highly focused productivity sessions.

3. Keep it accurate.
Over time (or even throughout the day) your to-do list may not reflect what you actually need to do. To focus on getting the stuff done that “really” needs to get done, check in on your to-do list at least once a day. You’ll want to check for priority and relevancy. If it’s not relevant to your goals or needs, take it off or put it on a “to do if you have time” list. If you’re doing tasks that aren’t a real priority to completing your goals, shuffle some things around and make sure you’re working on tasks that will move you closer to your end goal.

4. Do the big task first.
For some people, having the “dreaded” task done first helps them complete their to-do list easier. When you start with the biggest task first, once it’s complete, the rest of the tasks don’t seem as daunting and are easier to confront. The side benefit from this approach is that studies have shown we have an allotment of willpower. Once it’s used, it’s gone for the day. Conquering your big task first helps you work with your willpower instead of against it. Therefore, it decreases the odds that you’ll put the task off one more day.

5. Do everything else first.
While the “big task first” idea works well for many, others respond better to clearing their mind of all the little things first. There’s something self-satisfying about seeing all those tasks checked off as complete. This approach allows you to focus on the “big task” without any other mental distractions, so you’re able to just get it done.

6. Get in the mood.
Sometimes it can be difficult to shift back to work mode, especially after a holiday or in-between different types of tasks. When that happens there are few things you can do speed up the mental transition.

  • Take a minute and clear your desk.
  • Look over the tasks you need to do and see which ones will only take a few minutes and get those done first.
  • Take a few minutes and read a few blogs or magazine articles related to your industry.

7. Clear your head.
If you have a lot going on, you may just need to take a break to clear your head so you can focus. Go out and take a brief walk or exercise. Sometimes just talking with someone about what’s going on in your life is enough to help you refocus. Even better, do a hobby or some type of repetitive work that doesn’t take a lot of concentration to give your mind a break.

8. Reward yourself.
If you find yourself struggling to get through your to do list on a regular basis, it may just be because there’s no reward or fun in doing it. Help combat that by scheduling something fun that you enjoy doing for the end of every day. That way when you finish your to-do list, you’ll not only feel productive, but you’ll also be rewarded with an activity or task you love doing.

9. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
As entrepreneurs and self-starters, we tend to have bigger dreams and ideals than what’s physically possible. We want it all. However, feeling like you’re never accomplishing what you set out to do can take its toll on your psyche. Make sure you’re being realistic about what you’ve set out for yourself and the time frame you’ve allowed yourself to complete it. If you find that you are continually not able to complete certain tasks, take a closer look and make sure you haven’t set yourself up for failure by asking too much.

10. Keep track of your time.
You may find yourself surprised at where your time goes in the day. Keeping a log helps you discover areas where some changes or improvements can be made. It also lets you accurately predict how long something will take you in the future, making planning more effective in the long run.

What tips and practices do you do to get through your list? You can share your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

About Jennifer Good

Jennifer Good writes on many topics related to content marketing, social media, leadership & productivity for leading publications. You can also find her at JenniferGood.com.