The To-Do List
It's a great feeling, isn't it? Checking something off your to-do list. Mission accomplished. Done. But it's also easy to let that list grow to herculean proportions or have a whole day (or week) go by without checking anything off your growing list of tasks. How does this tool for getting things done become a stack of ticking time bombs, flaunting your procrastination? It all comes down to your planning and how you write it. Here are the seven tips for mastering your to-do list like a boss.
Create Your List the Night Before
Starting your day without a clear plan means nonessential tasks can quickly derail your day. That's why it's smart to create your daily to-do list the night before, so you know exactly what you've got on your plate. It also allows you to prioritize the tasks. And bonus: once you've got all that down on paper (or Evernote), your mind is clear and you'll fall asleep without worrying about the next day.
Eat the Frog First
This popular productivity phrase is based on the Mark Twain quote: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." You may be tempted to ease into your day by starting off with simpler or less demanding tasks, but that will just make tackling the more difficult jobs later even more challenging. Finish your big task first thing and the rest of the list will seem a whole lot simpler.
Silence your phone. Put on your headphones. Set up site blockers if you can't keep yourself from checking addictive sites like ESPN or Facebook. Anything to ensure that interruptions won't break your focus. A few hours of complete concentration can accomplish what would take several days of mindless multitasking.
Make sure the to-dos you're writing down are actionable. Break down larger chores into smaller tasks that can be easily accomplished that day. For example, "Find a new dentist" can seem a bit overwhelming. But "Ask Dan in accounting what dentist he goes to" can certainly be done in a matter of minutes.
Use the Two-Minute Rule
You want to avoid being sidetracked, but no man is an island. If a task or request comes your way during the day and it'd take less than two minutes to accomplish, do it right then. (i.e. Answering an email or returning a quick phone call.) These are small things that can easily be finished, as opposed to being added to the bottom of your already full to-do list.
Give Yourself a Break
If you work too hard for too long, your body will find ways to give itself a break in the form of procrastination. Pushing too hard only strains your brain. Schedule a few breaks into your to-do list. But don't break your flow by scheduling breaks at a specific time. Instead, match them up with certain tasks. Once those tasks are checked off your list, you'll be free to enjoy yourself.
At the end of the day, go over your list—this could be before you leave work or as you're getting ready for bed. Take a moment to appreciate everything you just accomplished and check to make sure there aren't any looming deadlines or time-sensitive tasks you've missed. It's also the ideal time to make tomorrow's to-do list and identify the day's "frog."
Volume 9 // 2017
When we started our 31 Days series, way back in 2009, it was an idea that began out of the natural tendency to see the new year as a restart of sorts. Each day, we put up a short tip or trick to help readers get a fresh start to the new year and step up their game. Then we did it again the next year and it's grown every year since, proving to be one of Valet.'s most popular series ever. This year, nearly a decade in, we've shifted the focus just a touch—narrowing in on skills and attributes we believe make you a better man. Little things that have a big, lasting impact on your life and the lives of those around you. Everyday this month, we'll introduce a topic or idea aimed at helping you look your best, feel great and be the civilized 21st century gentleman we all strive to be. Best of luck in 2017 and thanks for reading.