Life is getting bigger and bigger with tasks and responsibilities. Every. Single. Day.
At the same time, it's very short and it's too short to do nothing.
Since college, I was doing my To-Do List and I was always trying to get it done. But.
I was often frustrated because nothing got done as expected. Sometimes I wrote all my dreams on that to-do list for a single day. My to-do list would look like the following:
- An entire chapter from a textbook
- Two lectures on this subject
- Self-study that new course
And then? Almost nothing would happen.
I could finish one task out of the whole pile of lies.
Yes, I was lying to myself because dreams are not achieved in one day.
Sometimes I would list reasonable things to do. And then realize it's better to do something else. Or why I should do it. Or perhaps more importantly, why I should prefer it over playing PlayStation.
I've developed habits for quite some time. The problem often occurs when I try to keep it organized. Habits that make me more productive and successful and feel happy that I achieve more.
To help me organize such productive habits, I've made a unique to-do list planner using a pen and paper.
Looks old-fashioned? It might be. Except when you see some visualizations and more interactions to it.
You can apply that to-do list planner to your tasks. I promise it will help you finish most of your tasks if you apply the same technique I illustrate here.
I use this technique to track my tasks every week.
Here is the weekly process:
You need to focus on what you want to achieve for the week. I use a simple list format with a checkbox next to each bullet point.
List each task down on a sheet of paper. Keep it simple and short.
Say, you want to achieve just3 tasks per week. Your diagram will look like this:
Tasks could be as general as this: reading, writing, and studying. Remember, this is a list of things you want to do to make you successful. There is no need to write your laundry tasks or brushing your teeth habits.
Split each task into reasonable chunks to do within the week. Each part represents a single day.
For example, write down the amount you want to read next to a reading task. You want to read 10 pages a day. Write it down.
For writing, you might want to write 500 words a day. Write it down, and so on.
Visualization makes it easier for you to see your progress.
You will even feel rewarded when you interact with this visualization. This is the key to continuing to do your tasks and developing these habits every single day during the week.
Let me show you what I mean by rewards through the following image:
I stole this idea from Atomic Habits where the author thought to fill a jar with coins when you achieve a task. This rewards the achiever. Instead of the jar, I use a pen a paper to draw a jar-like shape. And instead of the coins, I scribble the daily part like this:
As you might notice, we split the rewards jar (drawn above) into 7 sections. Each section represents a day of the week. So, plan to scribble all these sections for each jar. That means you have accomplished all the tasks for each day of the week.
Doing so will make your short-term reward aligned with your long-term vision for the month.
Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided. ~ From Atomic Habits
Writing down simple generic bullet points is not enough. When you make the task broader like reading, you're leaving it open for the chances. Also, you might forget your progress on the rewards jar.
Rather, be specific on the graph. If your task is reading. Specify reading 10 pages a day and iterate on it when you complete a subtask of it. Write down the pages you've read so far next to each section of the jar as below:
Finally, review and check your progress at the end of each week. This step is very important to help you have feedback on your progress. You'll know your strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments to your habits. To the weeks coming forward.
I do it two ways:
- I calculate how many points I do out of the total tasks I have planned for the week. (I name this task points)
- Then I calculate how many daily portions I scribbled. (I name this subtasks)
At the end of the day, it's time to compare.
For the three-task example, if I do 7 subtasks in reading so I check that task out.
I then look at the writing jar and see that I have accomplished 6 subtasks. This means the writing task is not done. For the studying part, I find that I have accomplished all the subtasks so I check that task out.
As a result, I do quick math. I give myself 2 out of 3 for the tasks.
That's because I have accomplished 2 out of 3 tasks for that week. This equates to ~67% of the tasks.
In detail, I have done 20 out of the 21 subtasks which means +95% of the subtasks I do.
Being consistent is a very important aspect of getting things done. A short, concise, specific, fun and productive to-do list can bring that to light and help you get things done.
Start this 'to do' list planner simple. Then, build it up bit by bit to a more complex list when you feel confident that you can achieve more.