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By Dr. Charles Bohle
April 03, 2014
Category: Life Advice
Tags: to do list   scheduling   wasting time  

5 Incredibly Effective Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder 

I saw this article by Jeff Haden on Inc.com and thought it was really interesting.  There are things here that all of us could learn from to make us work better and smarter.  I am going to break down the article into its five sections and discuss each, one at a time.

1. Rework your to-do list. I've written about the history of the to-do list before, and how to write a great one.

One of the most counterintuitive but effective methods I've found for increasing my productivity is to limit how many items I add to my to-do list.

One way to do this is by choosing one to three most important tasks, or MITs. These are the big, tough tasks for your day that you really need to get done; the ones that will keep you in the office past the time you planned to leave, or working after dinner if you don't get through them.

Leo Babauta advocates doing these before you move on to other tasks:

"Do your MITs first thing in the morning, either at home or when you first get to work. If you put them off to later, you will get busy and run out of time to do them. Get them out of the way, and the rest of the day is gravy!"

The rest of your to-do list can be filled up with minor tasks that you would do as long as you complete your MITs. Make sure you work on those before you move on to less critical tasks and you'll find you feel a whole lot more productive at the end of the day.

Another to-do list tip that can reduce work anxiety is to write your to-do list the night before. I often end up in bed not only thinking about what I need to do the next day but also planning the day; obviously, that makes it difficult to sleep. Writing my to-do list before I go to bed helps me relax and sleep better.

And rather than wasting time in the morning because I don't know what to work on first, I can jump straight into my first MIT the next day.

One more to-do list tip: Focus only on today.

My most recent and favorite change to my to-do list has been to separate my "today" list from the master list of everything I need to get done.

I often feel anxious about all the things I know I need to do at some point. I need to write them down somewhere so I don't forget them, otherwise I worry about when or if they will get done. But I don't want those items cluttering up my list for today; that will just make today seem even busier than it already is.

My solution is to make a big list of everything I need to do. Then, every night, I move a few things to my to-do list for the next day. (I use one big list with priority markers so that anything "high" priority moves to the top and becomes part of my "today" list.)

That lets me focus on what I must do today, but it also gives me a place to dump every little task I think of that someday must get done.

Take it from David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done: "Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them." Park your ideas on your to-do list, but make sure you create a "today" list and a "someday" list. That way you won't waste energy trying to remember important ideas and you'll ensure today won't feel overwhelming. 

So instead of making a list that has everything you have to do on it, just make a list of the most important things you have to do.  Do those first then if you are so motivated, continue to work.  Those task will be far more stress free.