One of the most common misstakes regarding structure I encounter when meeting my clients is that they create to-do-tasks that are too big. They do well up to a certain point; they use the latest list-app, manage to gather all the notes on what they have to do into one single list, and no longer have loose notes laying about. But, the list is a mix of both big and small tasks. Some tasks are more tempting than others, and these are often the shorter ones that are easy to do and check off the list. Some tasks are more extensive and perhaps so big that they catch themselves repeatedly thinking ”Oh, I’ll deal with that later” or even ”I need to get going with this – but I don’t have time right now”. The tasks they have defined too broadly and that are simply too big, are the ones that keep getting left behind on the list, turning into ”leavens” and giving them a bad conscience for no good reason.
Check items off often
It feels great to tick a task off as done; everyone I have met so far agree on that. Speaking for myself, I love feeling this wonderful feeling several times a day as it induces hope, motivation and a sense of progression. If you are anything like me, then you need to tick several tasks off every day as well. In order to do so, we need to make sure that every task is shorter than a workday, so that we will have time for several tasks in a day.
Let this be your rule-of-thumb: a to-do-task is shorter than a workday.
If you, like I, want to have a to-do-list from which you get to check off items often and where you feel that there is a lot happening, signaling progress and development, then do this:
- Take out your to-do-list.
- Look it over. Are there any tasks that actually take longer than a day to complete? If so, then move them to your overview of more extensive projects and tasks, from which you define the first step as a to-do-task and put that on your to-do-list instead. This way you divide what takes longer than a day to do into smaller steps and they become easier to both get started with and finish on time.
- When you have gone through the entire list and made sure that all the tasks it contains take no longer than a day to complete (just to be clear; each task will not take more than a day to complete, not all tasks put together), then you are done for now. Now get to work – start working with the tasks on the list.
Flexible instead of phlegmatic
If you refine your to-do-list so that every task written on it take no longer than a day to complete, your list will become a much more useful tool. Every time you open the list you will now only see things you could do with ease, rather than just get reminded of all the larger tasks you need to get going with soon, once you have time. In one simple step you have decreased the risk of creating more leavens out of tasks that are left on the list for long periods of time. If you have made the tasks smaller but still have a lot to do, then the list will have become longer than before, but you will get to tick things off it much more often. Even after just a short while of effort you get to experience the satisfaction of seeing the list diminish in size. Trust me, it is worth the effort.
About the Author:
David Stiernholm is a trainer who teaches thousands of people every year in companies, government authorities, organizations and universities how to become more structured and attain a higher degree of personal efficiency.
He is also the author of Super Structured.