You are in the right place if you are looking for ideas to improve your productivity, planning and organisation.
This is the first blog post in a series on the top 9 productivity hacks.
There are hundreds of productivity hacks out there. Most will work in one way or another, but will depend on what you are looking for.
The ones I am are interested in will work for all areas of your life, both work or personal.
Only the ones that are quick and easy to implement and have proven great results have made it onto the list.
At the end of the series I’ll post them all together in an overview.
Productivity hack 1 – take control of your to-do list
[blockquote]”There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory” – Francis Drake[/blockquote]
No surprise that this is first on the list from someone who is a list freak!
The 3 most urgent tasks need to be THE most important things for you to complete today. They should take priority over everything else.
Many people go straight for completing the easy tasks first and putting off anything more difficult or taxing until later. This can result in a lot of stress to finish off more critical tasks too late.
To break the cycle, always start with essential tasks first, no matter what.
If you put off these tasks until later in the day, you will never get them done.
Create a master to-do list
Write a list of everything you need to do.
Don’t be shy, list everything, big and small.
This is your master list.
The master list will be a continually evolving list of items. You add or remove items as and when you think about them or do them.
Keeping your list digitally may be useful to keep it updated whilst you are on the move. Just jot your thoughts down when you think of it, otherwise, if you are like me, you will inevitably forget about it until too late.
I use Evernote to jot down all my thoughts, and keep track of my life. Using this tool I have my list with me wherever I am as it is on my computer, ipad and iphone.
Keep the task specific
Be clear with what you write down for each task. The devil is in the detail.
If needed break a bigger task down into several smaller tasks. Smaller tasks help you focus on what is actually required.
Being specific will prevent you from drifting to unrelated tasks that don’t actually get you closer to completing your goal.
Plus the added benefit is that you will see all of those completed ticks on your to-do list as you quickly complete them
Prioritisation is key
Once you have your master list, review each entry and prioritise them.
I use a priority matrix to assign the true priority of a task (I know it sounds technical but it is simple honest!). By combining the Impact (Important, non important) and the urgency (Urgent, non urgent) you can work out the priority using the following combinations:
Critical – Important & urgent (e.g. dogs are running out of food today)
High – Important & not urgent (e.g. walking the dogs)
Medium -Not important & urgent (e.g. plant spring bulbs)
Low – Not important & not urgent (e.g. cleaning the windows)
Obviously it is up to you what is important or urgent but bear in mind these truisms:
- Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
- Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.
Initially you will find that a lot of tasks will fall into the same priority. Once you get to grips on how to categorise tasks, you will easily recognise what tasks are more important/urgent than other tasks.
The idea is to focus Critical and High tasks. The more you follow this approach you will find that you never have Urgent tasks as you process them when they are in a High Priority.
Basing you actions on importance you will feel more more fulfilled and accomplished at the end of the day.
Only work on the top 3 items
We all know how easy it is to get distracted and before you know it, 3 hours have passed and you have accomplished nothing. So before you check email, reading the news or do anything else, plan out your day and start on your 3 most critical tasks.
Don’t get distracted by anything else, and work all the way until you complete the first task.
Now that you’ve got at least one important thing done take a 10-minute break, and if you can stand it, get started on your next task.
Try to get all three of your critical tasks done before moving on to anything else.
If you can do that, the rest of the day should be easy going!
Take control of your to do list
Just because a tasks has a critical or high priority doesn’t mean to say that it is going to be difficult to do. And it’s the small tasks that can make your to-do list seem insurmountable.
By completing your tasks in priority order you are taking the pressure off yourself.
You have a process to follow.
And you will get round to both the small and big tasks whenever they need to be done.
This is how to master your to-do list and feel in control again.
We have created a simple daily planner printable that takes these principles into account and helps you plan your day.
What this all ultimately means is that you won’t simply be efficient you will also be effective.