The Key to Sticking to Your Task List

I’ve been thinking about why it can be hard to keep an up to date task list. Is it finding the right system? Hanging out with other people who create and keep up with task lists? Is it making the time each day and week to keep current with the daily tasks as well as the steps for that big goal or project?

All those things play a part and can help or hinder your efforts to stay on top of your tasks. However, the more I think of it the root of the issue is habits.

In my previous job I carefully tracked my time. I had to – my time was billable. As a result, I felt that as much time as possible should spent doing billable work. I didn’t want to spend time creating task lists. I’d figure out the next thing I needed to be working on when I finished the current task. Well, that didn’t always work out too well for me. Sometimes I’d completely forget about something or spend a lot of time sorting through things trying to remember or decide what to do next.

Productive, that’s always the goal – right? It’s not productive to sit and look at all the things you could be doing. It is productive to jump into a task and get it completed, or at least make progress. You might not really believe that, but look at your day – isn’t that what your doing by not creating some sort of plan for your day?

This is where habits come in. When something is a habit, you do it without thinking too much about it. It’s something you just do. Like brushing your teeth every night.

I recommend creating the next day’s task list the night before and then reviewing it first thing in the morning. This accomplishes two things. (1) When you create your list at the end of the day your work is still fresh in your mind. If you wait until the morning that task that was really important yesterday might be forgotten. (2) Reviewing your list first thing in the morning gives you a nice snapshot of your day.

Is this a habit that would be helpful to you? If so, try it out for a week and see how things go. If not, what other habits around staying on top of your tasks do you want to create?

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