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Why Your To-Do List Never Work… And Seven Secrets Of Making Them Work

Why Your To-Do List Never Work… And Seven Secrets Of Making Them Work

We have 84000 seconds in a day. No more, no less.
And we have lots and lots to do. Something I need to do, as per my plans. And some surprises keep popping up, unexpectedly. Your boss, your spouse, your children, your customer – anyone will spring up a surprise and ask you to do something that was not planned by you, and obviously it is not on your TO DO List. And mind you, it may be most urgent or important! The list does not end, a friend, a new friend on Facebook, Income Tax Department, or a notice from the Electricity authority stating that your connection will be disconnected if you do not clear an outstanding bill immediately, or a friend asking for blood donation. The list can go on and on and on. We do not only do what we want to do, or what we have to do but also what others in the environment want us or compel us to do.
All this in a limited time.

A TO Do List is a list of Daily Goals. This includes Rituals that you do to achieve your goals. The daily goals are derived from the Weekly goals which are derived from the Monthly goals, which in turn are a result of filtration that starts from a Purpose leading to Mission, Vision and finally to yearly goals.

How often do you manage to complete your TO DO List? Most people say “never,” a few say “seldom,” and rarely do we hear anyone say “always.” Whichever category you may belong to, here are 7 secrets that really work. Add them in your tool list and make things work for you. Research shows that 89% of people do not complete their TO DO Lists and most agree that they add more items than the ones they tick off as done.  Good news. You are not an exception.

  1. To Achieve List. Extract from the list those vital actions that will lead you to the accomplishment of meaningful weekly goals. Use the popular 1-3-5 Rule. Limit yourself to one major task, three medium level tasks and five small tasks. I found this challenging. So I modified it to 3-5-10 and it works well for me. Work out your own style. Have you ever made a Not TO DO List? Do that. It helps you keep away from distractions and focus on important tasks that save your time. Identify your time wasters.
  2. This is the most important step. Use the Urgent-Important matrix (sometimes referred to as the Eisenhower matrix Do the most important things first and leave the rest for later, or find a method of delegating or empowering others or outsourcing it. This Jar of Life story is truly illustrious of this point.
  3. Time Slots. I use a simple excel sheet to work on my scheduling. I call it Time Slots. And it works wonders. I make a spreadsheet which has days of the week in the columns and time slots of 30 mins in rows. The rule is to write one task in a cell and no more. First I block all the cells that are fixed and not negotiable. Sleep, meal timings, yoga, holidays etc. Then, using my current list of daily and weekly goals and rituals I start allotting a cell to each task. If something more important comes up, the cell has to be replaced by the more important task, and the existing task must go into a vacant cell. I find it works very well.
  4. You could use a diary, an excel sheet, an organiser software on your lap top or phone, or even a calendar on your computer or even on the wall. Follow one particular tool and be consistent.
  5. White spaces. What disrupts the concept itself is when we do not cater for unforeseen contingencies. I found the answer. Have two thirds of your matrix (refer to scheduling) left blank. These are sometimes referred to as white spaces.
  6. Minimisation. Keep them small. Make small goals. Break big tasks into smaller tasks. Celebrate each time you accomplish a small goal. It produces a spark of motivation the achieve the next goal.
  7. Distractions. Keep distractions, particularly social media to include temptation to check e mails frequently, a peep at Facebook or Whatsapp, or handle unimportant visitors or calls. Find ways to filter them like using a secretary.

Here a few things to keep in your mind. It serves better to prepare your To Achieve and To DO Lists on the preceding night. Finalise it at night. If you do this you sleep with the list and it goes into your sub conscious mind. In the morning revise it. Be calm and do not panic and go into stress. When something does not work as per plan ask yourself, “what is the worst that can happen and what can I do about it?” The answer will generally lower your stress immediately.
Follow these and increase your productivity while reducing your stress levels.

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