Trim that List

In a perfect world, everyone would have a to-do list guiding their actions. The most productive people create to-do lists so they can identify their important tasks for the day and work on them. I always advocate never going through the day without a list. However, it is possible through well-meaning but misguided efforts to abuse the concept. If you have ever faced anxiety when you look at your to-do list in the morning, this post is for you.

Don't Panic
There’s an easy solution

Let’s go back to the basics. The idea behind a to-do list is to capture what you have identified as important. Ideally, you’d write your to-do list the night before. It should help you identify the 3 tasks you should work on in the morning. A to-do list that has 15 items on it is not very helpful. It will only give you anxiety. When you get to work in the morning and stare at your list, the thought on your mind shouldn’t be there is no way I am going to get all these done. If that’s what you are experiencing right now, you are dealing with anxiety caused by task creep. At some point, you have stopped filtering tasks and add everything that comes to mind to your list. This means, you no longer have a priority. If everything is important, then nothing is.

Checklist with three items
Three tasks.

When you are creating your to-do list for the next day, decide what you want a successful day to look like. Pick 3 tasks that you feel are absolutely essential to ensuring your day is successful. Identify the hardest task. This task tends to be the most important. It is also often the tasks that people procrastinate on. When you get to work the next day, work on that task until it is finished. Consider everything else a distraction. When you are done, move to the next task. Do not add anything to your to-do list until those three are done.

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