Productivity Tip 1 – Write a Task List and then Just Do It

The biggest productivity problem in procrastination, you have things to do but you just can’t get yourself to do them.

You may try to delay your next task because you suspect (or know) it will be unpleasant, you may have more interesting things to do or you just have too much e-mail (or blogs) to read.

The solution is to just do it and get it over with, this is a technique I found useful:

  1. Write down what you have to do, break down large tasks into smaller ones so all tasks take less than 2 hours (or whatever works for you, the trick is to have tasks you can complete in one "session").
    Don't waste too much time writing your task list, it doesn't have to be complete – you can always add more tasks later. Just take the next thing you have to do and break it down into bite size tasks.
  2. Now prioritize the tasks, don't get fancy, divide them into high, medium and low priority, do it quickly, you don't have to be accurate.
  3. Pick one of the tasks with the highest priority, don't waste time picking the task, if there is one task you want to do pick that one, otherwise just pick the first one.
  4. Now work on this task until it's done – don’t work on any other task until this one is complete (also don't read blogs or play solitaire until the task is complete, just work on that one task).
  5. When the task is complete cross it out if your list is on paper or deleting it if your list is on the computer (or click the “mark as complete” button if you use yaTimer).
  6. Now repeat the previous three steps until the list is empty or it's time to go home.

The important thing to remember is that managing your tasks isn't productive work, don't waste time writing down detailed task descriptions, don't waste time with accurate fine grained prioritization and don't waste time deciding what to do next.

Don't get me wrong, you should know exactly what you need to do, and you need to have good prioritization and picking what to do next is important, but that's at the planning stage, at some point you have to stop managing yourself and just roll up your sleeves and do some actual work.

yaTimer, my easy to use time tracking software, has a very nice task list display, adding and rearranging tasks is quick and easy – and you can also track how much time you actually spend on each task, I'll talk about the advantages of accurate time tracking in a future productivity tip.

There is a short list of common task list mistakes on the daily web worker blog.

posted @ Monday, October 22, 2007 5:06 PM

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