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Re-Do your To-Do's

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

Are any of you completely overwhelmed by your to-do list? Does it seem unmanageable? Are there items that seem to carry over from day to day or even month to month? And the longer they are on your list, the less excited you are about actually completing it (yep, I’m looking at you)? It is no surprise that all of this leads to stress and an overall lack of productivity. It is known in psychology as the Zeigarnik Effect which states that people remember uncompleted tasks more than completed tasks which ultimately acts as a hindrance in remaining focused and as stress-free as possible throughout your day.

On the flip side, how rewarding it is when you can complete something off your list, whether that means carefully recording it as completed with a simple check-box or physically and rather aggressively crossing it off with your favorite pen until there is no trace? Whatever method you use, it sure feels good doesn’t it?? Ahhh!!!

While it seems like a rather basic exercise of taking note of the things you need to accomplish, the reality is that most people are setting themselves up for failure and frustration by not being specific about the actual next action that is required of them. Do me a favor and take a look at your own to-do list right now. Are there any items that seem to carry over and over and over? For illustrative purposes, perhaps it says, “workflow” and this means that you are responsible for drafting a visual of an existing business workflow. Ask yourself what is required to complete the exercise? Do you need the input of others, access to a specific system, the information contained within existing documentation? If the only way to move forward with completing this task is based on information you need to receive from John and Amy then the to-do on your list should be “schedule meeting with John and Amy” and not “workflow.” Make sense?

This strategy works for any to-do you may have. Have you been wanting to paint your bedroom for several months now? Has “paint bedroom” been on your mental or physical personal to-list for quite some time? There is a reason it’s not done. You can’t just paint your bedroom. Hear me out here…you can, however, some actions are required before you do so. First, you need to pick the color, then you need to go to your local home improvement store and physically buy the paint, then you need to prepare the room by moving furniture, taping…you get the idea? If “paint bedroom” is on your to-list you will continue to think about it (enough to act as a hindrance to other things you should be focused on of course) AND have an unpainted bedroom as a result. Rather, if you begin with “choose a paint color,” you just may be sleeping soundly and enjoying the newest shade of blue sooner than you think.

Ask yourself what specific action is required next for you to progress? By setting up your to- list a little differently and with very precise, crystal clear actions in place, not only will you accomplish more, but you will feel more in control and be more productive as a result.

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