Ah, the dreaded to-do list.
It's funny how something so inane has the power to grind us down.
More often than not, we end up with a huge and random spew of tasks that we inevitably never get around to doing. We feel good writing it all down, but the doing bit just seems too enormous; we'd prefer to chip away at it for weeks, or ignore it altogether.
Perhaps we're coming at it the wrong way.
We take a look at three alternative ways of tackling a to-do list, for a results-orientated approach minus the residue stress:
1. Organise tasks according to your energy levels
Instead of producing one long list of things to do, try organising your tasks according to the level of energy they require.
"An energy-based context works incredibly well because how we are feeling energy-wise is something we can recognize no matter where we are," says Mike Vardy, author of The Front Nine: How To Start The Year You Want Anytime You Want (via 99u.com).
"Using this context allows you to move things forward even when you’re not feeling up to certain items on your to-do list.
"I assign high energy to anything that is going to take a lot of my mental energy, low energy to anything that is fairly easy to complete, and normal energy to anything that falls in between. Using an energy-based context requires honesty. If you’re feeling great, then do the things that require higher levels of energy — don’t cheat yourself by doing something lightweight instead.
"One of the greatest benefits of using an energy-based context is that if you’re not feeling all that well (or even have called in sick), you can still make some progress with low energy tasks. Even the smallest steps forward are at least steps that are moving you in the right direction and a few low energy tasks can sometimes give you momentum to tackle the bigger fish."
2. Try the Bullet Journal productivity method
The Bullet Journal has generated a lot of buzz since its inception, and for good reason.
The technique from New York-based interaction designer Ryder Carroll is simple and logical, with an appealing rationale that promises to make you productive, rather than just busy.
All you need is a pen and a notepad. You then organise your to-do list month by month, using a straight-forward archive system divided by tasks, events and notes.
As you move from month to month, you can strike tasks off or migrate them into the following month. It's a ridiculously simple way of weeding out needless activities and quickly identifying which things you stumble on, or just never get done.
We could chat more about it, but the video above tells you everything you need to know. Watch it and prepare to streamline your life forever more.
3. Create an "I did" list
James Altucher, author of The Power of No, argues that we should escape getting bogged down in the responsibility of to-do lists by scrapping them altogether.
It's a radical step, yes, but his view is that by creating these lists every morning, we immediately submerse ourselves in clutter of things to do - and then end up feeling drained or bad for not doing them.
"To-do lists can quickly get out of hand when you start to add in all the little things that you think you need to get done - things you think you should get done. And while it’s great if you get all of those things accomplished, what happens when you don’t?" he tells lifestyle coach Lewis Howes in this podcast.
"Nothing. It doesn’t really matter.
"So instead of a to-do list at the beginning of the day, make an 'I Did' list at the END of the day. If you make an I Did list you will be so impressed with how much you find you’ve accomplished in that day. And impressing yourself is so much bigger and better than any to-do list you could have possibly imagined."
It's simple but inspired and wonderfully liberating. As Altucher points out, you'll never be on your death bed thinking, "I didn't finish my to-do list".
Words: Anna Brech, Photos: ThickStock