If you only ever take one piece of productivity advice then take this one.
You must have a to do list.
I know that sounds weak, lame, boring and old but done right it is the single most useful thing you can do to be productive besides waking up.
The two words in the last sentence I hope you noticed were “done” and “right”. That’s the key.
Many people make a to-do list. Many also do what’s on it.
The key is to do it systematically and continuously. Let me explain.
I have made a bazillion (for illustrative purposes only) to-do lists in my lifetime. I have even done what’s on them more often than not.
The problem I had for a long time was putting too many things on it at once.
The list can be intimidating.
Many of the tasks may be small and accomplished quickly but if you get bogged down in a more time consuming task then each glance back shows a list that doesn’t appear to be moving along and that builds frustration.
Frustration leads to all sorts of things and I can’t think of a single good one.
After a while you (I have) just don’t want to look at to-do lists anymore because they seem to taunt you with all you haven’t done instead of what you have accomplished.
That’s where this little tweak comes in hand and quietly boosts your productivity and makes you feel good about yourself. It’s a small two part adjustment.
First of all, limit the daily list.
Don’t include everything in the world on your list.
Prioritize what you have to do and put five or six things on it in order of priority.
You can possibly add a few more but if you list too many it becomes counterproductive.
Next, do them.
Finally, move whatever wasn’t finished over to the next day at the top of the list and fill in the remaining slots to make up your five or six things to do.
Here’s why it works.
The list isn’t daunting to look at.
There are only a handful of items.
Don’t get cocky though, depending on what they are you’d be surprised how many times you don’t get all five finished.
The second reason is that if you don’t finish it the list of things not accomplished isn’t that long and scary. Moving the remainder to the following day makes sure important things get completed and helps fill in the list.
On lighter days when there doesn’t seem to be much to do you can still find five things to put down and get done.
The more you get done and physically check off the list the more accomplished you’ll feel (and actually be) and in turn you will feel good about yourself.
Can you remember a time that feeling good about yourself was a bad thing? I can’t.
An old idea that lingers because it works.
Some things seem too simple to be effective but it’s often the simple idea that is the most effective.
For some weird reason complicated solutions come to mind first. Simple and streamlined follow.
This is as simple and streamlined as it gets.
You have zero to lose by trying and an awful lot to gain.
To make it even simpler, just download the productivity worksheet on our site and you’ll have one less thing to do.