How to stick to your to-do list?

Hopefully, you have taken the step to become more organized in your life and have started writing down your to-do-list systematically every day, but soon you found out that the to-do list is just growing overwhelmingly long and you are unable to keep up with your tasks. Welcome to the club!

How to tackle your to-do list? Four tips for you —

Learn about yourself

For the first few weeks when you start writing your to-do list, approach it with a learner's mindset. When you write down your tasks, add approximately how long it is going to take to complete.

Example:

  • Wake up and Fresh Up [30 mins]
  • Make Coffee [10 mins]
  • Read a book [1 hr]

so on…

and every time you finish the task make a note of how much time you actually took to do the task.

Do this exercise for at least a week to really understand the gap between your assumption and reality. Many tasks that you might think are taking less time would actually be eating up your day and for few complicated tasks, you would be taking surprisingly little time. This is going to be fun learning that would help you to become a better planner and to understand your efficiency.

Schedule your tasks

Once you have the list of tasks and time needed to complete each of these tasks go ahead and put it on your calendar, this is very important. Scheduling will nudge you to do the task at the right time. Approach this also in the learner's mindset for the first few weeks and make notes of what schedule works and what needs change.

When you begin scheduling, it is usual that you may try to schedule every minute of your day. You must keep in mind that life doesn’t work that way! You will get multiple ad hoc tasks that you did not expect. Your tasks might get disrupted with a phone call from a friend or you may spend hours scrolling social media losing grip of your time.

In the first few weeks, do not beat yourself up when you miss your schedules, instead, learn about yourself. Make a list of all your distractions and disruptions and create a plan of action to overcome them.

I started doing a simple thing, keeping my phone in the other corner of the room. Just making it inaccessible where I sit increased my productivity and helped me to focus. Do small experiments to help yourself to become more productive and see how it helps you to be on top of your schedule.

Start the next task before taking a break

The idea here is if you have two tasks to do one after the other, then do not take a break after the first task instead start the second task and work on it for 5 to 10 mins and then take a break. This helps to reduce resistance to start the second task because you have already started it.

Usually, if you leave soon after finishing the first task you may not come back for the second task. It would require another load of willpower to push yourself to start the second task. So this approach would help you to restart easily.

Batch Processing

Another important thing to do is to batch similar tasks together so you could save a lot of energy and time on task switching.

For example, you wouldn’t do your laundry as soon as you have a pair of dirty clothes instead you would wait until you accumulate some more pairs and then put them in the laundry machine together. In the same way at your work, if you have a bunch of generic tasks like filling timesheets, sending status updates, etc. Do all of these tasks together in a single batch and also see keep looking out for effective ways of doing your batch.

These approaches have helped me in tackling my to-do list and I hope they will help you too. Do let me know in the comments if you try any of these and how they impacted you!

Happy tasking!

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Abhilash Marichi

Abhilash Marichi

Data Engineer at Amazon. I write about Data, Product & Life.