Keep Your To-Do List Short
“People make lists with no basis in reality. It’s supposed to be completed in an 8-hour day, but it’s enough work for a week,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” By keeping your to-do list brief and doable, you’ll feel like you’ve actually accomplished something at the end of the day, and won’t be staring at a rundown of failed attempts.
Schedule Your Day
“The only reason I keep a to-do list is that it saves me from having to remember everything,” explains Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., author of “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle.” “There’s not much point putting something on a to-do list without thinking about scheduling it.” Pychyl uses a calendar in conjunction with a to-do list to plan out the day, while Vanderkam suggests blocking out days by category, such as from 8 to 10 a.m. answer emails. This allows for freedom (and room for those unexpected things) but still maintains some structure.
Did you already make your bed this morning? Well, write it down and check it off. “I front load my lists with a few things I’ve already done just to build up a sense of momentum!” confesses Betsy Rapoport, a certified Martha Beck Master Life Coach. No judgment here.
Besides ordering your to-do list by obvious commitments and those items that were due, like, yesterday, Rapoport suggests figuring out how many other people have to “touch” a project before it’s complete. The more people, the higher up the priority list it goes since you’ll need to allow time for others to do their part.
Get the Most Bang for Your Buck
While prioritizing, do a quick cost-benefit analysis of your tasks, suggests Dr. Pychyl. “If this doesn’t get done, how much will it cost me? If this does get done, what’s the potential reward?” Rapoport recommends adding tasks to the top of your list that aren’t too difficult or time-consuming, but that offer a huge boost to your quality of life, like washing that sinkful of dirty dishes.
Start Somewhere, Anywhere
To accomplish larger goals, break them down into small, achievable steps. “How do you know when a step is small enough? When you’re doing it!,” explains Rapoport. “If you’re not doing something, break it down into an even smaller series of tasks until you get to the point where the task is so simple that it feels silly not doing it,” she explains. But Dr. Pychyl warns against trying to break down a goal into too much detail because that might seem like work itself.
Find an Accountability Partner
If you’re working on a long-term work project, report your intermediate progress to your boss or supervisor, recommends Vanderkam, to keep you on point. If you’re a freelancer or work solo, check in with your friends, suggests Rapoport, for the social support and accountability. Or sign up for StickK, an online community where you can publicly commit to a goal, like a weight-loss regimen, explains Rapoport. The site even lets you wager money on whether or not you’ll reach your milestones. Didn’t lose a pound a week? It’ll cost you.
Pencil In Goof-Off Time
Step away from Buzzfeed… for now. “I’m a big believer in bribing yourself to the finish line,” confesses Rapoport, and suggests building in a reward (like internet playtime) after completing a task. “That way your brain pairs effort with reward,” she adds.
Download a Digital Babysitter
Facebook may be a tempting mistress, but she doesn’t pay the bills. To stop your scrolling and trolling, install a pair of digital handcuffs using RescueTime, recommends Vanderkam. The watchdog program will track the time you spent online, and block any distracting websites after a set amount of time. Because we all need a little internet tough love sometimes.