Productivity Hacks: 6 Ways to Improve Your To-Do Lists

Productivity Hacks: 6 Ways to Improve Your To-Do Lists

When it comes to getting things done, most people are tempted to list as many tasks as they think they can complete on a piece of paper. The trouble with this is that not only does the list get longer and longer, but picking the best place to start on such a list is virtually impossible. Getting to those hard-to-reach tasks might be the thing that is keeping you from reaching your maximum level of productivity.

What’s the good news about this? It’s an idea that came from the mind of Ivy Ledbetter Lee, that eponymous public relations man from early in the last century who is best known for his work with the Rockefeller family and other notables. One day in 1918, Charles M. Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel Company, and one of the world’s richest men asked Lee how he became so productive. His answer? The “To-Do List.” A lot has changed in the past 100 years, but the notes app has evolved from that humble beginning. This article will show how to maximize that idea.

Create Your To-Do List the Night Before

One of Ivy Lee’s secrets was that he would always create his to-do list the night before a business day. Further, he would always start his to-do list with the three most important things he had to do that day. This way, the day can begin by knowing exactly what you need to do.

Ensure That You Have Everything You Need to Complete the Tasks

Don’t commit anything to a to-do list you don’t have the time or the resources to complete. Make sure everything on your to-do list can be finished that day.

Set a Time Limit for All Tasks

Have you ever had an item on your to-do list that never left? Probably everyone has. To eliminate this problem, never put an item on your list without having a date of completion for each item. When there’s a deadline for a task, the chances are better than you will be more productive and won’t waste time.

Keep Separate Lists for Every Part of Your Life

Experts disagree on this point. Some say that you should keep one long master list with everything that needs to be done.

Others say that such a list is counterproductive since it seems overwhelming. The latter group advocates keeping a separate list for each area of your life. For example, keep a list for work and another for home. The key here is to do what works best for you.

This is where a notes app comes in very handy. Pencils and paper were fine, but for managing lists of any size and any configuration, a smartphone with the right notes app is priceless.

Know What is a Priority, and What is Not

One problem that many people have when creating a to-do list is being unable to determine what is and is not a priority. When everything of all priorities ends up on a to-do list, frustration will mount. This is where Ivy Lee’s advice to prioritize everything—especially those top three items—comes into play.

Own Your Inbox

Email and an inbox are great ways to share information, but too much of a good thing is not good. Try to make sure you know how much of your day is spent reading and responding to email. When you feel you are being overwhelmed, start deleting things. The more you delete, the better you will feel.

This methodology might not work for everyone, but for most people, it will be highly effective. The old saying, “Don’t let your mouth overload your back” applies to the information age as well as it has in the past.

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