You’re Taking Too Long To Finish Your To-Do List

Kari Dana
Kari Dana
Jan 17 · 5 min read

Three things you can do today to help you actually accomplish something

Photo by Kari Dana

You make your lists and check them twice, thrice, and… whatever comes after thrice. Yet, you’re still not completing your tasks each day.

If you do at least one of the following three things today, I’d bet the farm that you’ll be doing better than you did yesterday! (Disclaimer: I don’t have a farm. But if I did, I’d bet on it.)

No fluff here; let’s get right to it.

1. Get up, get up, get out of bed. Wake up, wake up, you sleepy head

Get up early (or at least earlier). I’m starting with an unpopular one, but I’ll end with a fun one… promise.

“But I’m not a morning person.” I know, I know. I wasn’t either. Hated the mornings. Hated ‘em! I was annoyed for a good couple of years when my brain suddenly decided I should be up before the sun.

It’s not natural, I thought.

But then I realized I enjoyed the quiet time. Wow, nobody needed me. No notifications were going off on my phone. It took me a hot minute to learn to use the time wisely, but it was amazing once I did.

Experiment with different routines

I’ve experimented with many routines in those early morning hours, and I’ve realized that there’s not one single routine that works for me daily. I’m not in the same exact frame of mind each day.

One of the things I’ve tried is starting my day with reading and praying. That seemed like a good thing to do, the right thing to do. However, what I’ve come to realize is that my brain is so full of ideas and thoughts when I rise that it’s hard for me to turn them off and focus on reading and being quiet right away.

So I’ve recently learned that the best thing for me to start with each morning is writing. I’m not necessarily talking about writing the next bestseller. It could be an article, or sometimes it could be as simple as a brain dump, which is just writing down every thought that comes into my head, whether it’s a to-do item or a dream or an idea. It works for me to clear my mind.

2. Stop multitasking

You’ve heard people brag (and maybe you’re one of those people) about multitasking.

I am not one of those people. I’ve always struggled with being overwhelmed when there are too many irons in the fire. And I’m not alone.

Dr. Nancy Napier, PhD, tells us about the myth of multitasking.

Research in neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music, to writing a text, or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.

That start/stop/start process is rough on us. Rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds). It’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time, it can sap our energy.

So pick one task on your list and finish it before starting the next. Granted, we all have projects that take days, weeks, or months to complete.

When working on the longer-term tasks, set aside a specified amount of time and work on that project until the time is up. Then check it off the list and move right along.

This brings me to my absolute favorite and most effective time management tool that I suggest you do at the next available opportunity… today!

3. Set a Timer

Have you ever put a task off over and over, procrastinating till it almost drives you crazy? It’s always in the back of your mind, nagging, stressing you out.

And then when you finally get around to doing it, it takes you all of ten minutes to complete?

Why do we do that to ourselves? We tend to overestimate how long a given task will take. It seems monumental but then proves to be minuscule.

For instance, many years ago, when the kids were little, I was not a person who made my bed each day. I wished that I was that type of person, but I just didn’t have time to do it before work. That was my excuse anyway. I loved the look of my room when the bed was made, but I couldn’t make it a priority, what, with all the hair and makeup that needed to happen!

Then one day I decided to set my timer/stopwatch and see how long it actually took me to make my bed. Ready for this? It took me one minute and 21 seconds (and it only took that long because back in the day, I had an excessive amount of throw pillows). I decided that I could sacrifice 81 seconds of the 86, 400 seconds that are allotted to me each day. (I timed myself recently, and it only took me 51 seconds.)

Timers can help us realize how surprisingly quickly we can accomplish each item on our to-do list. So give it a try today! Pick an item that keeps being transferred to tomorrow’s to-do list and see how little time it actually takes you.

Another way to use the timer

And there’s another benefit that I love about the timer method: it makes me move faster!

Instead of setting the timer/stopwatch to see how long a task takes you, try setting the timer for a specific amount of time and see how much you can tackle in that period.

Can you give just seven minutes today?

You can do this with work tasks or tasks at home. Let’s look at your kitchen as an example, shall we? Set a timer for, say, seven minutes. Yes, seven… 7. Some of you are looking at your kitchen and thinking it might take 7 hours to clean! But stay with me here. You’ll be astonished how much you can accomplish in just 7 minutes.

Start the timer and then clean your kitchen at a speed that you didn’t know you could reach. Pro tip: Don’t leave the kitchen during this seven minutes. Remember? One thing at a time. Finish what you’ve started.

I know, I know, your youngest child’s socks are on the kitchen table, and you want to put them in the laundry. Just hold off. Set any item that needs to go to another room in a basket or box and take care of it later. Your sole focus right now is clearing out and cleaning the kitchen.

Start with the dishes or pile of mail, anything! Just start speed cleaning! No dawdling allowed. And when your seven minutes are up, marvel at all you’ve accomplished! If that’s all the energy or time you have for today, fine! Just come back to it tomorrow. But if you have another seven minutes, set the timer and do round two!

Start today

I’m not asking you to create a spreadsheet or make chore charts for the kids. Simply pick one of these simple tasks and get started today.

I’d love to know if you were able to accomplish something today with one of these simple tricks. Or if you have a favorite time management tip to share, let me know that as well!

Here’s to being the boss of that to-do list today!

Kari Dana

Written by

Kari Dana

Freelance writer. Fascinated by personal development. Committed to destroying excuses, revealing potential, and encouraging others to bust a move.

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