I love lists. In fact, I pretty much run my life by lists. I have a notebook full of lists: to do lists, shopping lists, lists of upcoming lessons. For me, lists are the best tool I have in keeping my life organized and productive. The thing is though, sometimes, these lists can be totally overwhelming. Sitting down to look at a list of things to do that is one or two pages long is a surefire way to kill all hopes of productivity. I had to find a better way.
That’s when I started working with five. Every night, I would look at my to do list, and on a Post It I would write down five things I wanted to accomplish on the following day. They could be things that I needed to do, or just things that I wanted to get done. The most important thing was that there was only five things on the list. Five things would be manageable; I knew that I could get five things done.
So the next day, I would take out the Post It and get started. Those five things would be the first things I would work on for the day. Starting with the first thing on the list, I would work through the projects, marking them off as I completed them. When I checked something off it really made it seem like I was making good progress. Having successes like that motivated me to keep working and get more done.
Starting with five things on my list was a success. I was working through my long to do lists five items at a time. Everyday I would focus on completing the five tasks I had assigned myself the night before. If I finished with time to spare in the day, I would go back to my list and pick a few tasks off it and work on them. Some days, I would get more than the five done, other days it would just be the five. I would always work to get the five tasks on my Post It done by the end of the day. I could finally get through my to do list without feeling too overwhelmed to start.
I’ve been using this system for about three months now, and I can say that it is by far the most effective time management strategy I’ve employed in a long time. By using the lists of five tasks, I have seen my productivity increase exponentially.
Is your to-do list overwhelming you? Share your current task management strategy and changes you’re considering for 2012.
Aaron Morris contributes to Simple Scrapper each month, sharing his expertise and life experiences on time management.