How To Finish Your List Without Starting a New One - The Living Well

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How To Finish Your List Without Starting a New One

Stop thinking about getting something done and do it with these five tips.

This is the ultimate productivity post. Don’t we all need more tips on how to increase productivity? The nitty-gritty of when list-making gets real and ultimately how to not start another list and finish the one you have.

Yes, that one staring you right in the face.

If you’re anything like me, then you know that list-making can be an invigorating task and a terrifying one all at the same time. If you experience both of those opposing feelings each time you write out a list, you’re not alone.

Computer and notebooks sitting on a bed
Photo by STIL on Unsplash

The reality is lists can be downright daunting.

Especially if they contain a lot of hard tasks.

Say, for instance, on your list you have; How to eat an elephant.

Okay, no one will ever probably write that on their to-do list {or so we hope} but we all know that task. The one that seems so big, so scary, so overwhelming that you don’t even know where to begin.

So we leave it, we wander, we beat around the bush and hope that somehow or some way it will magically just happen. We watch it sit in our planner staring back in that awful red ink you used to love but have now come to loath.

Unfortunately, there is no magical fairy and no magic wand that can make these things disappear without actually digging in and getting them done. To cross of the hard things, the daunting things, the things you really hate.

But how great does it feel when you cross it off? Invigorating? Maybe that is a bit much, but I can assure you, you feel pretty darn good.

So how do we cross off those last few tasks? The ones that sit in the planner for weeks without ever being crossed off. How do you break down eating an elephant?

As they say, it happens just one bite at a time. Here are five productivity hacks to finish your to-do list and avoid starting a new one. May you never move a task from week to week again!

1. Complete the hardest task first

While it seems easy to get a running start and choose the smallest and easiest projects to accomplish first, this can do more harm than good. The reality is those tasks that sit on your to-do lists for weeks and months are often the ones that require the most energy.

But it’s the action that draws motivation, and with motivation comes energy.

It’s possible, instead of letting those hard tasks that sit on your to-do list and still steal your energy, be the thing that gives you energy by completing them. Or at least make progress on them.

Start your day with the most difficult tasks, the ones that seem daunting and overwhelming when you have the most energy. 

2. Prepare yourself

That task may be sitting on your to-do list simply because you don’t feel confident in completing it. Prepare your mind and body for what’s ahead by researching, brainstorming, or even gathering whatever you need to get the job done.

Then grab yourself something warm to drink, make yourself comfortable, put on some tunes, and get those tasks knocked out. Prepare yourself to make the hardest tasks as easy as possible.

3. Break it down

Just like they say, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. The same goes for your to-do list. Whatever task has you stuck and stressed, then break it down. Keep breaking down that task into smaller, more manageable, and realistic tasks that can easily and realistically be checked off in little time.

Make sure you keep your to-do list quick and simple. Even if you have big, big tasks to complete, they can always be broken down into more simple pieces that seem easier to manage.

Don’t be worried that your list may become twice as long. Remember, the faster you check those tasks off, the more energy you will gain, and in time the more productive you will be.

More smaller tasks are always easier to manage than few daunting ones.

4. Batch tasks

Context switching is one of our biggest productivity killers. In fact, it could be the reason you have a hard time finishing anything.

If you really want to accomplish your to-do list and own that thing, get rid of the distractions. Put your phone on silent, turn off your email notifications, block social media, maybe even shut off the internet to open up the mental capacity to focus.

Once you’ve created space for your full attention, start batching like tasks together. Once you’re on the mental train for whatever task you need to complete, stay on it for the duration. This will help you get twice as much done in half the time.

Context switching is productivity’s worst nightmare. Avoid it by batching or grouping similar things.

5. Reward yourself

Some tasks just stink. We all have those things we dread doing. The tasks that seem to paralyze and overwhelm us. But we also know that the best way to build a habit is through reward centers. If you want to become more productive and prevent yourself from creating to-do lists without ever accomplishing them, then try rewarding yourself for completing one.

We know some people’s reward is the simple strikethrough from crossing something off their list. However, other people need a little more something-something to look forward to. It could be reading a book in the sun with the extra time you have, grabbing some lunch, or sitting in a coffee shop as you knock off your list.

Reward yourself, treat yourself and celebrate those small wins. This is the emotion that drives our actions and the reminder that hard work pays off, giving you the motivation to finish one list before starting another one.

It’s your turn

Now it’s your time to take the list you’ve made and finish it. Crossing out all the tasks that have secretly been holding you back. You can do this, one little task at a time. Don’t just be the list maker but the list conquerer.

Put the white flag down because you are going to own that list!

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