Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sorry! You've Been Structuring Your To-Do List Wrong All Along

No matter how hard your try, your to-do list never seems to get shorter. It's there, nagging at the back of your mind while you try to settle to your latest Netflix binge-watch. "Excuse me?" It demands, nudging at your conscience. "Letters aren't going to write themselves, you know. And as for that pile of admin you've been ignoring..."

So to speak, anyway. If your to-do list was sentient, then there's no doubt it would be a yappity little dog at your feet, hounding you through every minute of the day. It would be the phone notification that you could never silence; the alarm you can't switch off; the sunlight rebounding off your eyes when you've lost your sunglasses. Irritating; unavoidable; persistent.

The problem is not your to-do list, though. This might come as some of a shock, but... it's you. You're the issue. You see, your to-do list is only allowed to be irritating because you've structured it wrong. To labor the metaphor; you've not fed the dog, you've not silenced notifications, you've set the alarm for the wrong time. You need to get it into shape, so it can leave you alone - and you can experience a little productivity for once!

Top of the List

The first items on your to-do list are the essentials. These are the tasks that if you don't complete them as soon as possible, the repercussions are swift. This includes anything with your finances or to do with your work.

You shouldn't need motivating in the conventional sense to items at the top of your list done. The motivation is darker; it's the fear of what happens if you don't get these tasks ticked off. So blitz through them and get the worry settled.

Next Up

Next on the list should be matters of convenience. These are things that are going to make your life more difficult if you don't get them done. It's things like grabbing your snow shifts to clear the drive in bad weather, unblocking a sink or placing a grocery order.

The motivation here is to keep life streamlined. If you procrastinate away from these tasks, your normal life is going to be harder. Your Netflix binge is going to be compromised. You need to clear snow to get in and out of your house, sinks need to drain and you’re going to need popcorn for all the TV watching - so get it done, then you can relax.

The Rest of the List

After these two sections, move on to structuring your to-do list in a "one good/one bad" fashion.

Let's take two examples of tasks you have to do. One: brush the cat - a task you like, as it gives you bonding time with your furry friend. The second is to write a "thank you" note to your Aunt - a task you're not quite so keen on because you never know what to say.

So, bribe yourself. Structure your to-do list so that you have to do the task you don't like (writing to your Aunt), so you can get to one you do like (brushing your cat). You need some self-discipline here to ensure you don't skip tasks, but if you manage it, then doing the things you want is its own reward.


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