3 Shortcuts for Winning the Daily Battle with Your To-Do List

Tired of losing the daily fight against your to-do list?
Use these 3 simple steps to give your to-do list a roundhouse kick to the face.
If you’re like most people, your day is spent playing a seemingly never-ending game called “attack of the to-do list.” The object of the game is simple enough—get to the end of the list—and there are only three basic moves: 1) add to-dos to your list, 2) prioritize the to-dos on your list, and 3) whittle away at the to-dos as fast as you can. What’s the catch? You never know when you or someone else—your boss, co-workers, customers, spouse, kids, friends—is going to add to-dos to your list. Every time this happens, you have to go back to the beginning and work your way through moves 1, 2, and 3. Every now and then you get lucky and check every to-do off your list, but you never go more than a few hours or sometimes minutes without more to-dos being added, so the game never really ends.The Most Common but Harmful Shortcut

As with any game, there are shortcuts, some of them harmful, some of them helpful. The most popular, but harmful, shortcut to getting to the end of our to-do list is to pull tasks off the list before they’re actually completed or to not put them on the list in the first place. Either way, this is short-term gain long-term pain, but at the time it gives us a false sense of accomplishment as we tell ourselves we’re not putting things off we’re simply using our great prioritizing skills. So we pull off undone tasks or don’t put them on in the first place and tell ourselves that there just isn’t enough time right now and that we’ll remember to do them later, though we know full well we have no real intention, let alone no plan, to actually get them done later. The good news is there are at least three shortcuts to get to end of our to-do list that aren’t variations of shooting ourselves in the foot.

Helpful Shortcut 1: Only Put Incidental Tasks on Your to-Do List
If you’re like most people, you have only one place you keep any and all tasks that come your way: your to-do list. As you can imagine, this makes organizing and ultimately completing all the tasks more difficult and less likely to happen. Instead of overloading your to-do list with every possible task, put only incidental tasks on your to-do list. What are incidentals? One-time tasks that take a short time to complete, are easy to do, and aren’t repeated. They’re often simple ways to serve others and help them get on their way. Because most of the tasks you’re putting on your to-do list aren’t incidental tasks but actually routine tasks, turning your to-do list into your ‘incidental’ tasks list instead of your ‘catchall’ tasks list makes it a lot easier to get to the end of it. What are routines? Sets of recurring tasks that keep your personal, family, and professional life running smoothly, like the tasks you do again and again to keep your kitchen clean, your relationships strong, and your boss or employees happy. Check out our blog post The 4 Types of Tasks and How to Tackle Them to learn more about incidentals, routines, and the other two types of tasks: projects and problems.

“Instead of overloading your to-do list with every possible task, put only incidental tasks on your to-do list.”

Helpful Shortcut 2: Put Routine Tasks in Tactick
Now that you’ve cleared the routines off your to-do list, the routines need somewhere to live or they’ll quickly develop into problems, which can blow up your to-do list even more! So where’s the best place for routines to live? In Tactick, the app built specifically for routine tasks. Tactick has a library with dozens of routines already built out. All you have to do is choose and customize the ones you need for you, your family, and your work.

The next time and every time you or someone else wants to add a task to your to-do list, decide if it’s an incidental task or really part of a routine. If the new task is an incidental, put it on your to-do list. If the new task is part of a routine, put it in Tactick. This shortcut has the same effect as the popular ‘pull tasks off your to-do list’ shortcut, but it actually helps you by giving the tasks you pull off your to-do list a place to live.

Helpful Shortcut 3: Do the Routine Tasks First
With your incidentals on your to-do list, your routine tasks in Tactick, and a process for bucketing new tasks that come your way, the natural question arises: which tasks should you do first, the incidentals or the routines? The answer won’t surprise you: routines. Getting your routines done first puts you in a better position to help others get on their way. In other words, routines help you help others without putting your own work in jeopardy. Always putting others’ needs above your own sounds noble in concept, but the fact is if you don’t manage your routines you’re bound to have more problems and crises creep up in your life, which will monopolize and drain your time and energy—leaving you with little or no time or energy to help others.

To sum up, the next time you play “attack of the to-do list,” put only incidental tasks on your to-do list, put your routine tasks in Tactick, and focus on the routine tasks first. Will using these shortcuts guarantee that you’ll always get to the end of your to-do list? Of course not. But, it will make falling short the exception instead of the rule. Take that, unruly to-do list!

Category: Personal

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