Personal Productivity and Your To-Do List

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Does your to-do list help you stay on top of your daily tasks and make progress toward your big goals? If not, it’s time for a list makeover. I talked with Fast Company magazine about how your to-do list can boost your personal productivity.

The way you write your to-do list can help - or hurt - your personal productivity, productivity expert Maura Nevel Thomas says.

The way you write your to-do list can help – or hurt – your personal productivity.

One problem with to-do lists is that they can become obsolete as soon as you check your email and discover new, urgent tasks you have to accomplish. “If you’re honest about your capabilities, you’ll have to admit that you’ll likely only have the opportunity to accomplish three to five tasks in a day,” I told the article’s author, Stephanie Vozza. Your to-do list should be part of a larger personal productivity system that helps you quickly discern the best use of your time at any given moment.

More Ways to Enhance Your Personal Productivity

There are some other great personal productivity ideas in this article, as well. I especially like the first tip: Take items that are rote, habitual or that you want to become habitual off of your to-do list. (For a better way to make a new behavior stick, check out my blog article on creating positive habits.)

I’m not sold, though, on tip No. 4: Keep tasks that take only a few minutes off your to-do list. Instead, just do them. That’s actually the fastest path to being busy all day but getting nothing of substance done. As I wrote in a past article:

Your brain is not obedient. It doesn’t do what you command it to do; it does what it wants, and often directly contradicts what you want to do. … As a result, you think of things that need to be done all day long. In fact, one thought or action that you begin to take often leads to an avalanche of, “Oh, that reminds me…” Before you know it, you’ve started to do seven things, and finished none of them. You relinquish control over your actions to the whims of your brain, virtually ensuring that you will run around like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs until you say, “Enough!” and go back to the task you were trying to complete initially, when the thoughts of the new tasks intruded.

If you’re a leader, you can learn more about the importance of personal productivity systems for your employees in my new book, Work Without Walls: An Executive’s Guide to Attention Management, Productivity, and the Future of Work. It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon.

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