Changing Habits Personal Productivity

Slash your task list

wrote this on February 17, 2015
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Slash your task list

To-do lists have a habit of growing and growing and growing… We often speak to people who have hundreds of items on their task list.  Initially, this may sound impressive, but it’s quite the opposite.  With those kinds of numbers, it’s not a surprise that people feel overwhelmed.

Then the cycle begins…We look for new apps that will help us become more productive, we migrate our ever-growing list to the new app.  We learn the new app, love the new shiny toy, but after a few days we realize nothing changed.

The core of the problem is that once the list grows past a certain point, there is only one solution.  That is, slash your to-do list.  It is simple as that.  However, nothing is that simple.  Taking something off of out to-do list that we did not actually “DO” is akin to cutting off one of our limbs.

In order to overcome this crippling phenomena, have a clear strategy in place.

First, pick a number, any number.  Set a number that will raise red flags, alarm bells, etc. that your list is getting out of control.  Personally, the number is 50.    The fact that I can filter my list to narrow it down is great, however, I don’t want my unfiltered list to have more than 50 items on it.

Second, systematically and periodically go through your task list and ensure that it reflects your current goals and objectives.  Anything that doesn’t meet those criteria needs to get slashed! (see below.)

Third, hopefully you have the ability to sort your tasks list by Date Updated.  E.g., if an item has not been updated (aka “touched”) in a few weeks, it should be immediately flagged in your mind for removal.  It’s probably outdated, not relevant, or maybe completed and you forgot to mark it done.

Finally, use other lists to dump items that are not primed for your task lists.  For example, for items that you are not 100% sure you want to do, but want to still keep around, consider using a Someday list.  This list will not be in your face on daily basis, but you can revisit it every few weeks to see which you’d like to re-add to your task list.  You may have items that need to be done in a few months, e.g., change oil, renew lease, etc.  No need to have these on your task list, even if you can filter by Due Date.  Throw this on your calendar, or set a reminder.  Once you get the reminder, you can turn it into a task.

Simply put, your task list should be your most guarded list.  Don’t blindly add items to your to-do list, that’s what your inbox is for.  At any given time your task list should be a set of clearly defined tasks that reflect current and real goals.  As you reach into your task list on a daily basis to decide what you should do, you need to be able to trust it.

At the end of the day, productivity is about getting things done, not collecting endless lists, filtering them, or hopping from one shiny app to the next.

Until next time.



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