To-Do Lists & Getting Things Done

Here are four quick thoughts on productivity that have really helped me this year.

1) Have a Short To-Do List

Forget about the two or three page list of every single thing you need to get done for work, your personal life and everything else that screams for your attention.

Sure, it is ok to have a comprehensive list like that but do not look at it constantly during your day.

Here is what I do:
Before I go to bed, I write down the three most important things I need to do the next day. That is my to-do list.

2) Do the Hard Things First

Once you have made your top three list, reorder the list from toughest thing to easiest.

I am a procrastinator, and if I have a tough phone call to make or a long proposal to write, I will put it off until the last possible minute. Typically, once I make that phone call or do the thing I do not want to do, I am amazed at how it was not really that tough.

3) Only Look at One Task at a Time.

There are hundreds of articles online about how multi-tasking does not work. You know that, I know that, but we still juggle 15 things at once.

Here is a tip: Take a sticky note and cover up items two and three on your new abbreviated to-do list.
Work on that item until it is done. Once you complete it, cross it off and move the sticky note down to reveal item two and repeat.

4) Schedule Email Time.

How often do you look at your inbox each day? It is probably dozens if not hundreds of times. Do NOT let your email inbox (and other people) control how you structure your day.

Schedule in time for email. For some, it may make sense to have a half hour block in the morning, a half hour midway through the day and another half hour at the end of the day.
You may not be able to avoid email for hours. If that is the case, then schedule in 10 minutes an hour to blast through your inbox. Leave the remainder of the hour open for your to-do lists, meetings and everything else that truly needs your attention.