I’m trying. We all are.
I write to-do-lists for each day. Maybe you do too.
The question is do you manage to tick everything off your list when the day is done?
Do you often feel swamped at the mere thought of all the things you need to/ should be doing?
Summer’s here, which means no university for a while and long, beautiful days which at times lack any sort of agenda.
And so I try to give myself an agenda; asking myself what I should do with all this free time. I remind myself of the things I couldn’t pay much attention to/couldn’t be bothered to do when uni assignments screamed to be written. E.g. exercise.
I begin the day, enthused, ambitious and ready to take on the world.
“Champion” by Kanye West plays in the background as my eyes excitedly scan over a to-do-list written the night before…
And then all of a sudden it’s almost midnight. And I realise how pathetic I am.
On a good day, three out of maybe like five things on my list have been ticked off. But usually it’s one or none at all. Some days I “forget” my “to-do” list even exists.
Blame over-ambition. Blame waking up late. Blame it on a proclivity for procrastination. Blame siblings (like mine) whose hilariousness is a perpetual distraction.
Ultimately, I want to do better. You probably do too.
To do lists are helpful as life coach Kirstin O’Donovan notes in her “Why “To-Do” Lists Don’t Work, and How to Change that” Lifehack article. It just depends on how we use them:
“To-do” lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. The same with “to-do” lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.
In short the article suggests that one should:
- Make different “to – do” lists to work from. E.g. a list for ‘side-projects’.
- Estimate how long each task will take. I, as my sister notes, appear to have a warped perspective of time so I’m really bad at this. For those who can relate, O’Donovan suggests practicing this skill on a daily basis.
- Prioritise. Try and spend the most time on the tasks that fit into one of two categories: a) Important and urgent and b)Not urgent but important.
- Review. Let the list go beyond being just a “to-do” list. O’Donovan provides the example of reviewing the list and using it to plan the week ahead.
I hope to incorporate some, if not all of the aforementioned tips into my daily planning and I challenge you to join me!
How it will work:
The challenge will run every day over the course of four weeks (beginning when you want it to).
First off, it will help to have a list of goal(s) you want to achieve or have a rough idea of what these goals are before you begin the challenge:
- Every night, identify the categories necessary for your to-do list for the next day and write down the tasks belonging in each. These will differ for everyone but one of the examples provided in the article is a “follow-up” list.
(Note that there should be no more than 7 or 8 tasks in one category in accordance with O’Donovan’s observations).
- Then, estimate how long you think each task will take and note it down, e.g. two hours to edit a piece of work.
- Following on from this, add a “priority” section to your list. Here you will need to divide your task into four categories:
- Important and urgent
- Not urgent but important
- Not important but urgent
- Not important or urgent
I plan to assign a number to each priority level, e.g. ‘1’ for ‘Important and Urgent’ and ‘2’ for ‘Not urgent but important’. Then I would write ‘1’ next to ‘Edit work’ for example.
(Note: Try to ensure that the majority of your tasks fall into priority levels ‘1’ and ‘2’, as these are the categories O’Donovan suggests to focus most of our time on).
- The next day, work through the list. Try to focus most on the urgent and important tasks as well as tasks that are important but not urgent, because these are often linked to long term goals and they provide a break from the immediacy of the first category.
- At the end of each week, review your list to plan the next week:
Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar.
- (Then repeat).
In summary: The challenge = incorporating some or all of the tips provided into your life on a daily basis.
The goal = Productivity in the following forms:
-to actively begin working towards your goal(s)
-increased productivity in reference to the goal(s) you’re already working towards.
The questions to ask ourselves after these four weeks include:
- How much progress have I made toward achieving my goal(s)? – e. g. “I’ve finally started learning guitar”
- How do I maintain the momentum I’ve built (or lack thereof… we shall see) in the pursuit of my goal(s)? – e.g (as it pertains to the previous example) “By practicing 5 times a week”.
I’ll try my best not to procrastinate on making these changes and after the four weeks are up, I’ll update you on whether or not the tips were helpful as well as any other productivity related stuff I learn during this period of time.
In the meantime, feel free to share any productivity tips that you’ve successfully applied in your own life in the comments section!
Check out the full article referenced here.
P.S. The internet is FULL of tips on how to be more productive. The above is just one example.
Also, of course the attempt to be more productive will not end after the 4 weeks are up! I just thought it was an adequate time frame to see how things go.