LinkedIn recently released the results of a survey about to-do lists. Of the 6,500 professionals queried:
- Almost two out of three (63%) stated that they regularly create a daily to-do list.
- Yet just a little over one out of ten (11%) said they regularly complete all the tasks in a given day.
- Agricultural workers had the highest success rate. They work fast so they can get back home and make sure some stranger isn’t hitting on their daughter.
- Legal professionals were the least productive. They spend too much time messing with their briefs.
The most frequent reason cited for not completing their to-do list was “unplanned tasks”. These include “unscheduled phone calls, e-mails and meetings”.
We’ll share three suggestions to make sure you are more like a farmer and less like a lawyer.
Make a “to-don’t” list
Let’s not take the professionals in the survey at face value just yet. Let’s assume for just a minute that there’s another reason for the shortcoming.
What if the truth is that they are just unproductive too much of time? Let’s face it – it’s easy to fritter away a day these days.
The temptations are ever present – texts from friends, social networking, etc. It’s especially difficult for entrepreneurs who aren’t accountable to anyone for their time.
To make matters, it may be easy to justify the time. The line between productive and unproductive can be a very fine one.
We know from personal experience. Like us, you may have to ask yourself some hard questions. For example:
- When networking online, are you making valuable connections or just playing with friends?
- When surfing the web, are you conducting valuable research or just feeding a fancy?
- Even worse, are you moving forward or pushing off something you know you need to do but don’t really want to right now?
You may be better served by doing something unusual. Stop making a daily to-do list, at least for awhile.
You may find it helpful to make a “to-don’t” list instead. These are things you want to stop yourself from doing when it’s time to be productive.
Make a list. Display it prominently. When you find yourself starting to stray from what you know you need to do, take a look at the list.
If the activity you’re about to partake in is on the list, stop. Then go back to work!
Of course, you need to plan for some “down” time in your day. Complete a task. Then reward yourself with a goody from your to-don’t list.
A sticky daily to-do list
If day after day, you can’t complete all of the tasks on your to-do list, the answer may be a simple one – plan to do less.
Before we dive deeper, though, we should make one cautionary note: Be honest with yourself.
It may be worthwhile to conduct a time audit for a day:
- When you start working, set an alarm to go off in fifteen minutes.
- When it sounds, write down what you’re doing.
- Set the alarm for another fifteen minutes. Write down what you’re doing.
- Repeat until you stop working.
Now look at your notes. If you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to, you have too much of something:
- too much play
- too much work
If it’s the former, make the to-don’t list we discussed above. If it’s the latter, you’re simply trying to do too much.
It’s a common symptom among BIGG goal-getters. We tend to think we can accomplish way more than is humanly possible.
So to keep yourself out of that trap, get out a 3″ x 3″ sticky note. Draw an X through it.
You now have 4 triangles. Write down the four most important things for you to accomplish today.
If the task can’t be described in the triangle, it’s too much to take on. Carve it up into smaller tasks.
By the way, it’s okay to write down less than four tasks. But by using a small sticky note, you won’t be tempted to write down more.
You’ll feel so much better if you regularly complete your daily to-do list. You’ll be energized. You’ll feel more confidence. And besides that, you’ll reach BIGG success!
How do you make sure you complete your daily to-do list?
Image in this post from stock.xchng