Lists! Most of us do them all wrong. But not after today. I’ve discovered list-making secrets that will skyrocket your academic and career success. And, hey, these secrets can even make your biggest dreams a reality.
I recently went to a job interview. The interviewer expressed interest in me as a candidate, but I knew I lacked some of the required skills. I reassured myself, I have eleven days until they hire. So, I’d reverse engineer what I’d need to know in eleven days.
Wow, did I identify with stressed-out full-time students.
I aim to put in a 110% effort into my career. To perform at peak, I must maximize every minute. And that’s where lists make sense to me. Some personalities hate lists. They instead love unstructured environments. And I love dearly someone with that personality type. But I, and perhaps you, need lists, timers, bells—namely, structure—for peak performance.
But lists don’t quite work for me. And maybe not for you either. At least, not yet. “You may already know that to-do lists help you get things done, but did you know that most people who keep to-do lists don’t actually accomplish their tasks?” (Taylor, 34%). Personally, I tend to discover a great to-do list app, use it for a week, and then stop using it altogether. If only they’d make an app that has voice recognition, I think to myself.
But after reading a book titled Organize Your Day by Dane Taylor, I’ve discovered why my lists don’t work. Dane’s got it figured out. So, here are Dane Taylor’s tips to help list-making pull you up to peak productivity:
List Tip #1—Know your goal.
“You need to have a picture in your mind of what your personal goals are so that you know where all the tasks on your to-do list are leading” (p. 105 of 216, 46%). My goal is to give unconditional love to, first, my boyfriend; then, family and friends; and then the world. To shower all my loved ones with gifts, I need a high-paying career. I also need to give sweet words, quality time, gentle touches, and acts of service. As well, I aim to look, think, and sound as pleasant as possible—even while spending time by myself. But first, I want to start with a career-related to-do list.
List Tip #2—Break your to-do lists into multiple lists, depending on the subject
Put aside one to-do list for school, another for career, and yet another for family.
List Tip #3—Don’t list goals; break goals into verb-driven tasks instead.
“When you list down the items for inclusion in your to-do list, you must know how to tell the difference between tasks, goals, and projects. Your to-do lists should only contain tasks and not projects or goals” (p. 82 of 216, 35%). A project of mine, for instance, is to design product documentation. Pretty ambiguous, hey? Instead, I should break it into verb-driven, detailed task(s). As an example, I could turn it into the starting task “watch video tutorial on how to add columns into an InDesign file.” The word “watch” serves as the action. And the task is specific. But, to prevent feeling overwhelmed, make sure the task is doable within an hour (Taylor, 2016).
List Tip #4—Prioritize your to-do list items.
“A good way of prioritizing our tasks is by using the late Stephen Covey’s quadrants that was popularized in his classic best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People. These quadrants are:
- Important and urgent tasks;
- Important but not urgent tasks;
- Unimportant but urgent tasks; and
- Unimportant and not urgent tasks” (p. 84 of 216, 36%).
If using MS Word for your to do list, use a variant of the above coding system—one that adds colors and abbreviations “I” for “important” and “U” for “urgent”: IU, IU, IU, IU. For any tasks that is neither important nor urgent (in other words, IU), toss it from your list. Today, I spent time searching the Internet for an unimportant, non-urgent—but fun—topic. If I could rid my day of such triviality, I could focus on a winning mindset.
List Tip #5—Don’t clutter your to-do list; enter only three items a day.
“It’s very important to map your week ahead and to the extent possible, distribute the most important tasks among the days of the week in a way that there are only 3 major tasks in your daily list each day” (Taylor, 44%). Strangely, I feel like the hero when my to-do list overflows, but that can be demoralizing. You feel overwhelmed. So, hey, I’ll try preening it to three items to achieve the winning mindset.
Now we can act on list-making tips to achieve peak performance. And what you’ve just read is IU (important and urgent): yes, you just read The Voice Magazine.
How’s that for a winning mindset?