If you have not started to use my Daily Productivity Habit form, then you need to maintain your to-do list some other way.
One way to keep your to-do list clean is to limit how many tasks you take in. Instead of adding everything on your list, you can leave them out. Is it too simple? Who is going to do all that work then?
The stunning fact of life is that most things are unimportant. If you execute all tasks you get, you end doing a lot of unimportant stuff that does not move you forward. No matter how efficient and productive you are.
How do you know if something is important?
In our team we have often discussions what is important.
We always prioritize customer requests, but perhaps customer does not know what is important either. Since we have only internal customers we cannot measure the income. It does not make any sense to do things that do not bring value, since it does not bring more money to us either. For real customers the value could be in money they are willing to pay for seemingly non-important stuff.
Sometimes it is worth to play ignorant. Give time for the request. If it is unimportant it usually disappears. If it is important it will come back or the discussion continues and you know there is something in it.
Same goes to your own to-do list or whatever you call it. Play ignorant. No matter how seemingly important something is, and how tempting it is to add task to your list, so that you wont forget, don’t do it.
You can set quota to your to-do list. It can only contain five items or three. If you absolutely and for sure want to take something in, you need to drop something from your list first.
I understand that it takes a lot of courage to act like this. But please understand that populating your list with unimportant stuff is cause of stress. Allowing everything to flow to your to-do list is an easy solution. It is a lot more difficult to pick the most and absolutely the most important tasks to your list and have focus on them.
See what I mean. If you don’t pay your bill, you will get reminder. There is an extra cost for not paying it right away, but because it is important you will get reminder. Important and mandatory things have ways to remind you. Don’t react before they remind.
How to decide if task is important?
Ask these questions and find answers:
1. How worried you are?
Since I always work towards stress reduction. Stress is something you should avoid.
If you are worried and stressed, you should do the task right away.
2. What will happen if you do the task?
If the answer is “well, nothing really”. Don’t do it. Everything you do must have effect. Bigger the effect is, higher the priority of task needs to be. When you have customers, or products to sell, it is easy to mirror everything against the income.
Don’t get fooled though. Sometimes the effect can be an improvement that makes your life easier and as a result you will get more money later on.
3. What will happen if you don’t do the task?
That is easy question that is often left unasked. If your answer is “nothing”, think it again.
You might challenge me and say “What if I am working for an improvement?” All improvements do not have any effect if they are NOT done. If you speed up your process, nothing will happen if you don’t speed up.
Well, that is not exactly like that. If you won’t speed up your process, you have less time to do something that brings you more value, you have longer time-to-market or you are more stressed.
4. How big is the effect?
Estimate what is the effect your task:
- How much more money you will get?
- How much money you will save?
- How much hours you will save?
- How much shorter is your process?
- How much easier your work will be?
- Can remove some work?
5. Does it have the Deadline?
I don’t like deadlines, but sometimes you have tasks that have deadlines that are not in your hands. Deadlines make me to procrastinate. Deadline is a reason to move something to the future.
Everything that has a deadline, should be done early as possible as well to avoid the last evening panic.