In last week’s post about how to get it all done when it comes to do lists, I discussed two basic steps you can take in order to create realistic lists:
- Determine Needs vs Wants
- Implement Ghost Tasking
Now it’s time to look at two “kick it up a notch” steps you can take to get it all done.
Estimate your times for realistic to do lists.
I’ve seen to-do lists scribbled on napkins or sticky notes, neatly written out on official “to do list” stationery, typed and printed out, tracked electronically in a spreadsheet or app…. You name it, I’ve seen every kind of to do list format under the sun. The common variable that I find is that these lists contain whatever the brain has thought of – without considering how much time each task will actually take to complete. The most important piece of information you can add next to a task on your list is the estimated amount of time it will take for you to complete it. Be sure to pad in a little extra time to allow for the occurrence of Murphy’s Law. When you start noting your time estimates, you will begin to realize how unrealistic your lists may have been in the past. I’ve seen so many people list out tasks on their to do list for the day that would take six hours to complete, yet by the time they factor in their commute, work day, and taking care of their kids, they really only have about two hours of “free time” available to tackle those tasks. Then they feel defeated at the end of the day when they can’t cross everything off. This defeated feeling slows down our productivity little by little each day because we feel worse and worse about how much we think we’re not getting done. Stop the productivity downslide! Create a to do list with time estimates.
Schedule appointments with yourself on the calendar.
If you really want to kick your productivity up a notch, you’ll schedule appointments with yourself on your calendar for your top two or three tasks that you absolutely need to get done that day. On the one hand, you don’t want to have a day that’s so structured with every single minute of every single hour scheduled. If you deal with humans or technology, that just won’t work. Something – whether a fire or an opportunity – will always pop up, which is why you need to allow room for those. But those two or three critical tasks that you absolutely must get done that day should be scheduled onto your calendar so that you make a commitment to yourself to use that time to get it all done. Think about it this way: You may not take joy in going to the dentist, but you schedule that appointment on your calendar and show up. You don’t allow other people or requests get in the way of that appointment. The same concept can be applied to your critical tasks. The more critical they are, the earlier in the day they should be scheduled because as the day plays out, you know that life will happen and completely change what you originally had planned. Schedule your top tasks on your calendar and show up for that appointment with yourself.
When you think about everything that we think we need to do, it can be overwhelming. But if you take the time to analyze your list and create a plan, you’ll find that you can get done what absolutely needs to get done.
For complete step-by-step instructions on how to get it all done, be sure to read Chapters 8 and 9 in The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.