By now, you’ve probably heard me go on and on about getting rid of your To-Do list and the harmful effects of the Zeigarnik Effect; that voice in our subconscious that nags at us to finish the unfinished.
Still, People wonder how they should prioritize.
“Every time I get something done, I have to add two more things to the list.”
“I just keep buying planners, but I still have the same problem. I can’t make headway.”
“Everything seems urgent all the time”
Well, real talk here.
The list is the problem.
Simply figuring out which tasks are more important than others doesn’t change the fact that there are still 30 things on your list and you won’t suddenly forget about all the other “low priority” items just because you rearranged the order.
It might be time to work on your timing.
This famous saying about seizing the day is actually part of a longer phrase Carpe Diem Quam Minimum Credula Postero which means “Seize The Day and Put Minimum Faith in the Future.”
There will always be more tasks and more things that need to get done. It would be foolish to think that simply arranging tasks in a pecking order will have any bearing on your productivity or your life tomorrow or even an hour from now.
Obviously, it’s important to think big picture when setting a long-term vision for a company or personal projects, but when it comes down to actually getting things done, we must live in the moment.
You assign yourself a task at the relevant moment, you complete the task, and you move on. You don’t worry about what you have to do next because your system will “assign” it to you when the time comes.
You are delegating the responsibility of worrying about these things to an external brain otherwise known as a system of productivity.
Ok But How?
Essentially, any kind of reminder system that is disruptive in nature, like email, a text message, or even a regular old calendar reminder that pops up and makes a noise will do.
You can set an appointment for yourself in your calendar or use FollowUpthen.com to send yourself a reminder via email with all relevant information and at just the right time.
- Grocery Shopping — Email yourself the list at 5:30 PM when you know you’ll be on your way home
- Year-long book project — You do your best writing on Saturday mornings, set reminders for 6 AM on Saturdays and include notes relevant to each chapter so when you wake up on Saturday’s you are presented with the info needed to fuel your creativity
- Getting paid by a client — Email them your invoice with a Follow Up Then set for 1 month from now
- Waiting on an employee to produce a long-term project — Set a follow up email every week to check in and see how they are progressing
- Meeting someone new in a public place — Have their number and description sent to you a few minutes before the meeting
- Making lists of things to buy for an upcoming baby — Forward those links from Amazon to Follow Up Then for 4 months from now
- Write in your journal — use Daily Minded to send you nightly prompts about your day that you simply reply to
- Check in with your project team every Thursday afternoon — Geekbot for recurring reminders at regular intervals.
Where to start?
Take a good look at your list, whether it’s your to-do list, bucket list, leap list, whatever form it’s in, and really think about WHEN these things need to get done or take place.
You want to attack these items in such a way that things can get accomplished as soon as reasonably possible because there will always be more stuff. The good thing about this system is that once you use it, any new task that comes up simply needs to be “timed” and then put out of your mind.
If a task seems to large, then you need to break it up into what I call “micro goals” and then assign timing to each one of those bite-sized tasks.
Remember, the first rule of Less Doing is to optimize, so you want to get your tasks down to their leanest, most basic form, so you can power through them.
Timing tasks is a skill.
Fortunately, it’s an easy skill to pick up and you will quickly get to a place where you become an expert at optimizing your time and resource allocation. Things will get done efficiently but most importantly, you’ll start doing less and living more.