Some productivity zealots are obsessed with “inbox zero,” but you might also be looking to conquer “to-do list zero.”
Whether you’re a to-do list app aficionado, a “write it down so you can cross it off” type, you’ve jumped down the “bullet journal” rabbit hole, or you’re super Type-A like me and buy graph paper notebooks so you can make little boxes to put check marks in (yes, I really do this) there’s nothing like a targeted to-do list to keep you focused on your day.
If you’re ready to take your own to-do list — whatever type you choose — to the next level, then here are some fun hacks to supercharge your to-do list. Oh yeah, and the actual “doing,” too.
MAKE YOUR TO-DO LIST BITE-SIZED
“Take a look at the state of your to-do list right now. Is there anything on there that you couldn’t finish in one sitting or physical action? … Skimming through your list and trying to prioritize items for the day isn’t easy when the items aren’t quantifiable. For projects — collections of tasks which could take anywhere between a few hours to a few years — a different approach is needed not just to organize them physically on a list, but to make sure progress is made and it isn’t ignored because of how it’s phrased. The way to do that is by breaking tasks down into chunks.” — Smart Productive Work.
PUT AN END TO “DEATH BY A THOUSAND PAPER CUTS”
“Sometimes, it’s not one daunting project that’s making you feel stressed and overloaded. Instead, it’s a bunch of little things that just keep piling up. Emails that need to be answered, phone calls that need to be made, things that need to be followed up on — for every one thing you cross off, 10 things are added. This constant barrage of tiny tasks can be both distracting and disheartening. … The nice thing about those smaller to-dos is that they aren’t incredibly time consuming, so you’ll be able to move through them pretty fast.” — The Muse.
TRY YOUR CALENDAR INSTEAD OF A TO-DO LIST
“The important tenet of the backward schedule method of productivity is forgoing the to-do list altogether and instead scheduling everything into your day. Why? By actually putting agenda items on your calendar, you’re more realistic about how long they’ll take and when they’ll get done. You’ll also know exactly what time you need to start your day in order to fit everything in.” — WeWork.
BUILD IN ACCOUNTABILITY TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
“Research has shown that looping someone else in on your plans, no matter how you share them, keeps you more accountable. One 2015 study found that people are more likely to achieve their goals if they kept a friend updated on how they were faring. And a review published earlier this year in Psychological Bulletin analyzed 138 different studies on productivity and concluded that overall, people accomplished more of what they set out to do when others could track their progress.” — New York Magazine.
ASK IF YOUR PRODUCTIVITY APP IS SLOWING YOU DOWN
“The first thing a to-do list needs is to-dos. If your list is incomplete or, worse, outdated, you simply aren’t going to do check it. This makes it imperative that developers make it really, really easy to create lists and add things to it. But technology isn’t especially good at this. ‘If you have to turn on your phone,’ [organization and time-management guru David] Allen says, ‘click here, click that little icon, go to there… Come on!’ He sounds exasperated just thinking about it. Input and output is too hard. That’s one reason pen and paper remain so popular. Jotting things down is faster, easier, and better for cognition. A to-do list must be fast and flexible enough to keep up with your thoughts.” — Wired.