Have you ever looked at a to-do list and wondered how you would possibly get it all done? I have countless times. Without strong time management skills combined with the right motivation, to-do list can become overwhelming very quickly as they only grow bigger. Within this three minute post, I will explain the system I created for crushing any to-do list you make. I decided to write this post after a close friend of mine asked me how I stay organized with such a jam packed schedule. The strategies that I’ll share in this post are what helped me manage full-time course loads (for both undergraduate and graduate school) while writing and publishing two books, working full time, managing this website, planning a wedding, and have my first home built all at the same time!
Let’s start by slowing things down. When making a to-do list, the first thing to do is start with your daily routine. Most of you will laugh at this part, but I add things like showering (not because I forget) to my to-do lists or “go to the gym”. These are things I know I am going to do even if I don’t add them to my list but I call them “kickstarters” because they kickstart my motivation. There are few things more satisfying than crossing something off a to-do list….
Not only are these “kickstarters” essential parts of my daily routine but they are easy! If you just create a list of 100 things that need to get done, most of which difficult, you will never know where to start and likely struggle to find the motivation. By starting your list with “kickstarters” you give yourself a much needed jolt of confidence and motivation. When I complete these micro tasks it boosts my confidence in my ability to accomplish the more difficult tasks, which I call “sluggers”. This is why I recommend completing 2-3 “kickstarters” (small/ easy tasks) for every “slugger” (big complicated task). These bad boys need to be spaced out because doing them back to back will drain you.
Most people tend to only put the most important and complicated things on their list and that’s a huge reason why to-do lists never get started. Start small and build from there. But here’s the kicker, after you knock of a few “kickers” and see the satisfaction of crossing it off your list, take on the first big “slugger” and once it’s done – TAKE A BREAK.
I hate to play devil’s advocate but if you just try to pickup a list and grind the whole thing out you will likely fail. It’s too hard to stay focused. By the time you have finished your first big task, you’ve actually complete three or four things because of the “kickstarters” so take a break and reward yourself. I play video games for a bit or turn on the TV. And even though those “kickstarters” may have been tasks you would have done anyways, you given yourself to satisfaction of crossing them off a list. It may sound trivial, but it’s not. I do this everyday. I might go take out the trash (Kickstarter), put in a load of laundry (Kickstarter), take a shower (Kickstarter), then sit at my desk and write a post for this website (a slugger) and then kick back and take a break (turn on the playstation). Then from there its rinse and repeat.
Contrary to popular belief, taking breaks actually helps you be more productive. Remember those college days where you stared at a computer screen for hours and barely started your paper? Did you ever go out to lunch with a friend and suddenly come home and write the entire paper? Breaks help prevent us from pulling our hair out…
Step 1) Load that list up with kickstarters
Step 2) Identify your sluggers and space them out.
Step 3) Start chipping away. Do three small tasks then a big one.
Step 4) Kickback and relax for a bit.
Step 5) Fire in the hole! Rinse and repeat as needed.
By: Timothy A. Natale
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