Write your next task this way

Raise your hand if you use a to-do list. You’re my best friend if you do. To-do lists are a great way of capturing tasks you need to get done. The satisfaction of crossing off items on your list as they get done or the ding you hear after marking a task as completed on your digital list motivate you to start working on the next task so you can get another feel good hit as soon as it’s completed.

A to-do list. All the items have been checked
Just seeing this makes me feel good

How you capture tasks on your list determines how soon they get completed. By definition, a task is a unit of work you can complete in a few minutes to two hours of focused work. If it takes longer, you should probably break it down into smaller steps. Your to-do list needs to be as specific as possible. You need to be able to look at your list and know what next you should be doing without having to think. That is why “shopping list” is not a to-do list item but “Write down list of groceries I need to buy at the store” is. The first doesn’t capture what you need to do next. The second does.

The best to-do list items contain action verbs eg write, buy, mix and bake. One verb that often gets abused on a to-do list is the verb contact. “Contact Hafsat” sounds like a great to-do list item but it is not specific enough. There are probably half a dozen ways you could reach Hafsat. Are you going to her office, making a call or sending an email? Consider this instead:

  • Call Hafsat by 10am 080xxxxxxxx

The above list item clearly specified how you plan to get in touch with Hafsat, provided a due date (or time) and you even have her number written down. No excuse to procrastinate.

The word "procrastinate"
We don’t do that here

The key is to think carefully about what you actually need to do. Words like plan and implement sound good but don’t really say anything. Consider:

  • Arrange alphabetically
  • Sort by name
  • Download list of

Hopefully, you get the picture by now. I’m off to get my feel good hit by ticking off a task on my list (Write first draft of article on how to use action verbs in your to-do list).

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