To-do list: 1 reason why yours is not working.

  • Wangui 
A black board with To-do list on it

Updated 3/25/2021

Over the last two weeks, I have been struggling with getting things done and prioritizing the most important work in my schedule. I’ve been stressed, constantly frustrated, and having sleepless nights just thinking about all my unfinished tasks.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in the same situation too. A state where your mind is in constant worry and you can’t help but wonder when or how you’ll manage to complete all those tasks.

You have a to-do list that you update regularly if not every day and yet you don’t manage to check off the lists as done.

Today, I will walk you through the number one reason why you are not having any luck with your to-do lists.

We’ll also go through some easy achieving solutions that will make you on your way to ticking off to-do lists.

The 1 Reason why you can’t tick off your to-do lists.

You trust your mind too much.

Have you ever had a nagging feeling that you forgot something but can’t quite place your finger on it?

Yeah, me too. And the culprit for this nagging feeling is that you trusted your good old brain too much. Here is a simple detail we tend to forget. Your mind is not a storage for all things life.

Sure, you’ll always remember the day you were born, the color of your eyes, and even your favorite meal. But the small details such as when to submit your assignment, when to reply to that important email, or even when to replace your toilet paper rolls, will not always be in your thoughts until you need the toilet paper roll.

Until you figure this tiny detail out, you’ll always be left behind on some important activity.

But you came here for the solution, so let’s dive in.

2 simple ways to maximize the success of your to-do lists.

A weekly planner showing a to-do list

As I told you, the last two weeks have not been my best ones, but I have come to learn two tips that will maximize the success of your to-do lists. They will scale your goals and make your days less gloomy and more accomplished.

Get a second Brain.

Not the kind that you’re thinking about.

We said earlier that your brain can’t manage all the information that is your life. And if it can’t, you’ll need a partner that helps you manage, prioritize, store and remind you about this information.

A to-do list management app.

With a task management app, you can better manage your information, work on the most urgent details, and improve your day.

Trello is one of my favorites because of its visual nature, the easy learning curve, and the tons of optimization options. It’s a project management team software but it works for an individual project too.

Either way, whatever app you choose, make sure it’s able to capture the task you need to do and send you execution reminders.

Mindlessly listing a task will not make you a to-do list success machine. Be specific with times and details within the description.

Incorporating the whens, the how, and where will save time and reduce your chances of procrastination.

You need to go further than that if your to-do lists are to be effective.

This next tip makes wishes (your written tasks) into completed and ticked off realities.

Outcome thinking

Think about your last to-do list. What did you write down?

Probably something like this…

1) Do laundry.

2) Finish the Labor Laws essay assignment.

3) Visit the professor during work hours. Etc.

Now, this is the typical to-do list of most college students but there’s something wrong and incomplete about it. And even though you’ve listed your tasks down, your mind will still be preoccupied with the tasks.

Outcome thinking is simply a technique of writing down the why behind a task.

Example; 

Finish the labor law essay assignment. The outcome? You’ll boost your GPA for the semester.

Visit the professor during work hours. What’s the outcome; The professor answers your questions and it turns into the start of a good relationship.

For every task you list down, you must employ outcome thinking. It enhances the mission behind a particular task, and because you want the outcome, you’ve got no option but to actually do the task.

The next physical action for your to-do list.

This action is what determines how completed your to-do list will be.

If you want to write an essay, you have to do a couple of things before the actual task, right?

These actions are what will lead you to the ultimate goal, and they don’t have to be huge actions that drain you. It could be simple steps that consistently push you closer.

Finish and submit my essay by 9.00 pm tomorrow.

If you wrote this early in the morning, your next physical action should probably be:

  • Gather my research materials- Takes one hour
  • Research and make an outline- Takes three hours
  • Write the first draft- Takes two hours
  • First edit( Maybe four hours later after the draft.)
  • Formatting and last edits- Takes one hour 3o minutes.

Finally, send out the work.

The part where you gathered research materials was the physical action that set the ball rolling. And now you’ll have a completed task not an incomplete one.. All because you executed your next physical action.

Your lists of tasks do not have to remain a failure forever. Employing the two tips listed will change that failure into success. Just remember, for every task you list, give the outcome. This motivates and gets you working. And, have a small step of action set at a particular time of the day. The action gives you a head start on the seemingly impossible tasks on your list.

What important task are you working on right now?

Inspired by> Getting Things Done.

Disclaimer: I’m not yet done with the book and although I’m loving it, I don’t endorse or believe the subtle New Age beliefs in the book. As a Christian, I’d recommend that you read the book with an open mind and trust your guts when it comes to the beliefs that don’t align with biblical principles.

That aside, Getting Things Done is a great book to making your own task and productivity framework.

A couple of months after I wrote this post, I discovered Cal Newport. He is a Computer Science professor and an awesome author, to say the least. Whenever I find an author I like, I get immersed in their work immediately.

I’ve read three of his books so far, and I’ll probably be doing summaries of them soon, in a new section that’s coming up on the blog.

But for now, here are the titles incase you want to indulge the soonest.

  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You
  • Deep Work
  • How To Become A Straight-A student.

You can find all the titles over here on his blog.

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