There’s a to-do list for that: why you’re not getting your sh*t done
I’ve always been the kind of person to write things down, scribble them out and highlight others. For me, it’s a tactic of organisation — the kind where if I didn’t have a method to my own madness, then it’d just be chaos. But somehow, I take complete pride and gratitude in the existence of a good old to-do list. Seriously, I praise our ancestors for deciding the mind alone is not enough to create order, because it’s really not.
ANOTHER LIST? REALLY?
I’m not sure there has ever been a day where I’ve gone without some form of to-do list. They’re a partner in crime for me — something I need to have in action if I am to get what I need out of my day…or week, for that matter. Most of all, they help me plan out what’s coming up in my life, in a way a normal calendar just can’t do. This allows me to proactively work out how I can prioritise and fit the many, many tasks I have one into my day. And while it sounds simple, having the discipline to actively maintain a to-do list is tricky business. But it can be done all through a little bit of habit creation, and eventually, it just become a part of your coffee-at-breakfast routine.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD TO-DO LIST?
For me, a to-do list should give you enough of a forecast that you can work out how to jump from one activity to another, without wasting too much time and energy. Daily lists are great and all, but it’s a must to have a weekly layout set aside to show you how everything is set to be mapped out for the next 7 days. This allows you to think proactively about travel options, meetings and appointments, chores around the house and other bits and pieces — and most importantly, it lets you do it all without you losing your mind.
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In a nutshell, a real good list should give you the ability to merge your personal and professional life together without having some kind of mental breakdown. It’s a healthy way of seeing how you can get more done in your week for both sides of your life, without blurring the lines into “dangerous” territory in a work-life balance kind of context.
LAP IT ALL UP
If you’re not sure what’s worthy of making your list, then you’re thinking too much about it. It should be effortless and almost second-nature in approach. Anything you know you need to get done on a given day needs to appear on your schedule, and once you’ve completed it, you can enjoy the pleasure and sense of accomplishment of crossing it off. Seriously. Thanks to the human brain, we’re fed small amounts of dopamine when we feel even the slightest feeling of success. This means, when you’ve finally managed to tackle that nagging chore on your list and you enjoy the thrill of the moment when you cross it off your to-do list, your brain gets a big, old dose of dopamine — the pleasure hormone (amongst other things).
BUT BE REALISTIC
However, you can say goodbye to that moment of elation if you don’t take the time to think your goals through before you set yourself up for a busy week. The most important part of any kind of schedule or to-do list is to remember to keep things realistic. That means not setting goals for yourself that aren’t likely to be fulfilled because they’re some kind of far-fetched fantasy or are ones that actually need to come about in stages towards ticking off a much larger task.
Ultimately, really understanding how to get more done in your day comes down to knowing your own thought patterns and motivational trends, and then working your goals around that behaviour. Then, all it takes is adding in a snazzy to-do list to make sure you nut out all those bits and pieces, one step at a time.
Fair warning though — once you get into list-making, you’ll be hooked, but that’s okay. All in moderation.
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