Productivity Hack – Get Through the To Do List Step by Step

I have a long to do list, but when there’s so much there just glaring at you from the page, it can be difficult to start, or even know where to start.

I came up with a method called the ABC Productivity Hack, which helps me to stop procrastinating and just get stuff done.

Just made this into a Skillshare class, so I’m posting my notes on it here for people to make use of. 

It helps me to visualise, prioritise and motivate myself through my to do list.

I use it all the time, and when I’ve shared it with other people it’s changed the way they work as well, so I figured it’s a pretty useful life skill. 

It’s not perfect, I know, but because it’s so basic and easy it’s actually pretty fun to do, and is (ironically) a fun way to procrastinate, if nothing else :’D

 

1st Step is: Make a List

We had to start somewhere : P

First step is getting it all down, out of your teeming brain and onto that surface so that you can see all the nagging tasks you have. Try to limit it all to this to a week or a month, but you can go long term if that’s relevant to you.

Don’t just include tasks, and what you have to do, but also include things you want to do. This is basically a master list of all the things you want to get done in the near future.

This works best if you can use the largest sheet of paper you can.

I actually bought myself a huge whiteboard because I did this activity so often, I’ve been known to use wrapping paper and parcel paper too, but you can do this on a A4 sheet just fine. I just have a lot of stuff I try to do all at once.

ABCDEFG

Now this is where it can get a little tricky.

You’re going to prioritise.

Loosely using the alphabet as a guide,

So it goes like this:

A must be done – this is for anything that has a Deadline (don’t worry about which deadline comes first just yet). This can be anything from calling someone back to the project milestone you have to get done this week.

should Be done – this is for anything that other people are holding you accountable for.

Could be done – which is everything you want to do but don’t have to do

Daily. This is for the habits you’re trying to cultivate, but need to make time for – it could be exercise, drawing practise, meditation, a phone call with a friend etc. You don’t need stuff like cooking, showering & washing here but you can put it there if you want to get a realistic view of your time during the day. I’ll come back to this one later

Events – this is related to the A must be done deadlines – are their birthdays you need to prep for or conferences or conventions? Then it’s good to have that on this list just to keep it in mind. This is a visual tool, so it’s good to have these to be dones on there too.

Forget me nots – this is a blank section for miscellaneous things that come up that I need to do but can’t do in the moment. Like a shopping list.

Goals. what are you doing all these tasks for…whatever your motivation is goes here, so make sure it’s a really good strong one. Could be light hearted or maybe the result of some real soul searching. Maybe it’s just your goal for the month, or the year. Whatever your focus is goes here.

And there you have it. Your visual to do list. But the next step is where the real magic happens…

Time Out

You will have a rough idea of how long it will take you to do each task.

The keyword here is Rough. This isn’t supposed to be accurate at all – it’s just to give you a sense of how much time & energy will be needed for each task, and it will be clearer why it’s like this is the next step.

But for each task, and I tend to use a separate colour pen for this, put down how long you think it will take to get that done.

Prioritise for Real

And now we have our to do list, prioritised, with an idea of how long it will take.

There will be some things on your A Must be done, like call the utility people, that has 5 minutes on it.

Make that call now.

Task done.

The euphoria of ticking an item off a list that has been sitting there for days and weeks and months propels me onto the next task. Or at the very least, will take a small burden off my mind.

And that’s sort of how to do it…

For Example

I’ll make my way down the A Must list in order of how long it will take me to do it, or depending on the effort involved, or when it’s due.

I’ll make sure to make time for the Dailys as well.

The Shoulds can realistically be done later, or delegated. The Could be dones are the things you reward yourself with

So that’s it

Hopefully that helps. I have loads of techniques I use to help with productivity and scheduling, but this is a nice fall back option for when you are really struggling to get started.

Also I use Google Keep for my individual lists, I pin the one i’m working on interchangeably. I can carry it around with me everywhere, and I see what I’ve ticked off. Once everything is done I make a new note. I like it.

The other one I’ve tried is Trello, it’s really good but I just never caught on.

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