Your To-Do List Isn’t a Wish List: Add to It Selectively

Your To-Do List Isn't a Wish List

Poor time management is often not about a packed schedule as much as it is about an indecisive, unorganized, undisciplined mind that struggles with task management.

One persistent problem in time management is how people go about managing their to-do list, whether it’s a paper list, on an app/software, or just a mental record.

Unwieldy Buildup of Tasks

People find it easy to add things to their to-do lists. They tend to say yes to almost everything that is asked of them—because right when they are asked for something, saying “yes” involves nothing more than adding one more item to their already lengthy to-do lists.

What’s more, people can’t seem to complete and cross-off more than half of their to-do lists. The buildup of tasks is never-ending; for every task they complete, they tend to add a few more.

Consequently, they end up with a large, ever-growing task-list, which they postpone from one day to the next. No wonder they constantly feel besieged by work and get disheartened that there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Take Control of Your To-Do List

  • Be very conscious about your time.
  • Be very selective with what you add to your to-do list. As I mentioned in “the world’s shortest course in time management,” focus on things that you must do and avoid everything else. “An earnest purpose finds time, or makes it. It seizes on spare moments, and turns fragments to golden account,” said American Unitarian William Ellery Channing.
  • Learn to limit the demands on your time. Don’t say yes to everything that people ask of you.
  • Favor close-ended tasks over open-ended tasks. Break down complex tasks into smaller, bite-sized tasks that can be close-ended.
  • Associate everything on your to-do list with a date, time, and duration. Instead of adding a task to your to-do list, consider scheduling it on your calendar. Scheduling forces you to consider a task’s length and to confront how much time you actually have to devote to its completion.
  • Don’t tackle the tasks that you fancy instead of the ones you really need to do. Don’t focus on smaller, insignificant tasks on the pretext of making tangible progress quickly and in an attempt to avoid doing the significant projects.
  • Don’t wait for motivation to strike. Instead, discipline yourself and launch into action. As I mentioned in my article on the “10-Minute Dash” technique to overcome procrastination, action leads to motivation, which in turn leads to more action.

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