3 Tips to Take Control of Your To-Do List

The ability to focus is one key factor that sets apart the top performers in society. The demand for our attention from numerous sources limits our ability to execute any one task. Most people’s performance doesn’t suffer from a lack of effort, but from trying to do too much at one time. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg understands the need to focus on the most important tasks in his day. When asked why he wears the same style t-shirt every day he responded, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community… I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.”

In the book Organize Tomorrow Today, Jason Selk put together a strategy for handling what he deems our “channel capacity,” which in short, is our capacity for handling multiple tasks at the same time. He puts this simply, “The best time management plan in the world, or the best calendar, or the best device, or the best app, doesn’t address the fundamental problem of channel capacity. If technology were the answer, success would be as simple as flipping a switch…. Fitting more pieces into the puzzle won’t make you more successful.” He goes on to explain the way to embrace and maximize your channel capacity is to “learn how to make decisions, establish priorities, and light your own motivating fire instead of continuing to chase the counter-intuitive concept of multitasking.”

In our experience, those who enjoy the most success are the ones who do the best job prioritizing their day and accomplishing the right tasks, not the most tasks. The following are three quick tips that will help you make the most of your day and maximize your success:

  1. Write Out Your To-Do List
    One way to focus on the right tasks is to write out your to-do list. The act of writing, rather than just typing it out or keeping it in your head activates the Reticular Activating System (RAS) area of your brain, which is responsible for filtering information into the “instant access” and “deep storage” folder of your mind. It tells your brain that the information is important and needs to be kept at the forefront. Writing out your list also primes your subconscious mind to get to work, which is why you may hear of songwriters and comedians keeping a notepad by the bed to jot down lyrics or jokes that come to them in the middle of the night. 
  2. Focus on Tasks that Support Your Future
    An important priority should be items that have the greatest return for your FUTURE. Most people make a mistake of prioritizing what will reward them in the present but will do nothing for their future. One example of how people will choose present-based satisfaction is eating a poor diet of junk food, rather than choosing a disciplined that will give you future/ long-term health benefits.
  3. Choose Three Tasks to Prioritize Each Day
    It doesn’t matter how organized, efficient, and energized you are. You will never get everything done every single day. However, you can resolve to always get to your most important tasks and conversations. Create a list that has the 3 most important tasks, and label one of them as “1 Must.” By planning your short, critical to-do list today, your decision-making will be much easier, and your time will be used more efficiently. The best way to promote action is to identify just one thing, then ATTACK it. Picking the most important to-do item creates the momentum. Remember, a body in motion, tends to stay in motion, while a body at rest tends to stay at rest. 

For Additional Information on How to Prioritize Your Day, Read Organize Today Tomorrow by Jason Selk