I've never spoken to someone who told me he or she did
not have enough tasks on his or her To Do list. Most
people are overwhelmed by the number of pending tasks
that still have to be done.
Business professionals have reports to complete, meetings
to attend, letters to write, decisions to make. Stay-at-
home moms have to take the kids to school, make meals,
check homework and maintain the house. Even teenagers in
school have classes to attend, extracurricular activities
to participate in, essays to write and papers to
There's no doubt, there are a lot of things, on a lot of
To Do lists. So, how do you go about getting things done?
Here are 4 quick ideas:
1) Make a list and pick 3.
First and foremost, you need a Master List of the things
you have to do. Don't try to keep everything in your
head. Free your mind, and get the tasks and projects down
But even people who make To Do lists can still get
overwhelmed. Matthew, a business professional from Omaha,
Nebraska had a To Do list, but even the thought of it
overwhelmed him. Instead of it being a helpful tool, just
looking at his list was paralyzing.
I told Matthew that the more he avoided his list, the
more the things that had to be done were going to grow.
Instead, I relieved his frustration, by having him choose
just 3 things from his list each day, and to focus on
those before he started anything else.
After practicing this system for a few weeks, he
discovered he no longer felt overwhelmed. Instead of
seeing hundreds of things to do on his list, he was so
relieved to know he had to pick ONLY 3 a day to actually
start getting things done.
If you're having trouble getting things done, each night
choose a total of 3 tasks you plan to work on the very
next day--and get started on those 3 tasks as early as
Don't do anything else, until those 3 tasks are done. By
the end of each week, you will have completed a minimum
of 21 tasks. At the end of each month, you will have
completed a mininum of 90 tasks!
2) Control your interruptions.
Most people SAY they hate interruptions, but would you
believe that many people actually love them?
Jill, a financial analyst from Atlanta, Georgia, said she
couldn't get things done because of all the
interruptions-- people stopping by her office just to
chat, her ringing phone, her computer indicating that
incoming email had arrived. She SAID she hated
interruptions. But I noticed that Jill always welcomed
unexpected visitors, she always answered the ringing
phone, and she checked her email the second her email
In other words, she didn't hate interruptions at all.
After all, people are rarely that enthusiastic about
immediately doing things they hate to do.
Jill used those interruptions as an excuse so that she
could say she was too busy to attend to her To Do list.
The reason I knew this was because I had her sit in a
quiet conference room to work on the tasks on her To Do
list for a few hours, and she finally admitted that it
was too quiet and the tasks she had to do were really
Those interruptions as Jill first defined them, were
actually welcomed breaks in her day.
Everyone needs a break during busy days. When you're busy
working on a project, someone stopping by to chat for a
few minutes may be a welcome break. But if you allow this
to happen all day long, you're not going to accomplish
too much on your To Do list.
The answer--instead of allowing interruptions to control
you, you can actually control your interruptions.
Close your office door, let your voicemail field your
calls, and get to work on your To Do list. After
completing an item or two, then give yourself a break to
call someone you wish to call, or to check your incoming
If you're trying to get something done at home, but the
kids want you to play with them, send them away and work
on one or two items. After completing those items, find
the kids and play with them for 10 minutes.
If you control your interruptions, you'll get things
done. Plus, you will have taken some relaxing and fun
breaks throughout your day.
3) Don't just work on low priority tasks.
Every task you have to do, is either high priority,
medium priority or low priority. You would think that the
higher the priority, the greater the chance that item
will be done first. But that doesn't happen most of the
Very often, people choose the tasks they're going to work
on based on the difficulty level. The easiest tasks often
get done first no matter what the priority level, and the
most difficult tasks often sit on the sidelines even if
they're very high priority.
Gina, a junior in high school, had to write an essay for
her history class and it was due in 2 weeks. She was not
too happy about this because she viewed it as one of her
more difficult assignments. For the entire two weeks, she
concentrated on her quick and easy school assignments.
Not once did she even begin to work on her essay during
that time, until the evening before it was due. As it
turned out, she couldn't get it done and it adversely
affected her semester grade.
Instead, she should have been working on that essay for
10-15 minutes each day during that 2-week period.
To be sure you're working on your high priority tasks,
when choosing your 3 To Do tasks each day, be sure you
choose at least one that is a high priority task, no
matter what the difficulty level is on that task. Even if
you can't finish that high priority task in one day, even
working on it for 15-30 minutes each day will ensure
you're working towards its completion.
4) Sandwich rewards in between your tasks.
Make a list of ten 10-minute rewards--taking a catnap in
the backyard, enjoying a glass of lemonade while
listening to some relaxing music, going outside for some
air and maybe a quick walk and so on. Choose things
you'll really enjoy.
Tell yourself that as soon as you're finished with one
task on today's To Do list, that you'll then indulge in
one of your rewards. Then, do another task on your To Do
list, and then enjoy another reward.
In essence, you're going to be sandwiching your rewards
in between your tasks. For example:
Your day will be both productive, and enjoyable, at the
Jack, an insurance agent from Minneapolis, Minnesota,
used to work continuously all day, with no rewarding
breaks in between. Each evening, he'd end the day feeling
frustrated and overworked.
He began sandwiching rewards in between his tasks. His
favorite rewards were taking reading breaks, and simply
taking the time to sit back and rest his eyes for a few
minutes. At the end of the day he was happy to have had a
productive day, and he felt much more relaxed at the same
Article written by Maria Gracia
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