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Take a look at what a fairly average to-do list looks like.

  • expense report
  • Joe – budget?
  • bday card
  • check to school

If this were your list, and if you had produced it recently, you would probably know what each of these things meant. But even then, if you have only ten minutes available to get something done, you’d spend at least a couple transitioning from whatever you just completed to reconnect with your list, remember exactly what the items mean, decide which one to tackle, and pull enough brain cells together to mentally create the steps to get it all the way done.

Remember that empowering your productivity involves knowing the best use of your time at any moment and being able to take immediate and appropriate action.

So, when you are adding items to your list, take a few extra seconds to add them in a way that will enable you to take immediate action, on any one of them.

BeforeAfter
Expense reportEnter receipts into spreadsheet
Joe – budget?Email Joe for budget numbers
Bday cardGoogle Joe’s address for birthday card
Check to schoolpay the tuition bill via online bill pay

Can you see how the “after” list is much more actionable?  You must eliminate any obstacles to completing the tasks that are on your Next Actions list if you want to increase the likelihood that you will get more things done.

While you’re at it, eliminate “vague” sounding words like “plan,” “implement,” “develop.”  Because if you only have a few minutes, seeing a word like “develop” on your list will act like a speed bump, and you’ll probably skip over it.  Save those “vague” words for your  Projects list, which is for those “big picture” items that aren’t immediately actionable by themselves. Take a look at the examples below of verbs that work fine for your Projects list, but not your Next Actions list, and verbs that are actionable to use on your Next Actions list.

Ok for Projects ListActionable for Next Actions List
PlanCall
DevelopWrite
ImplementEmail

An effective and actionable to-do list is often the weak link in most people’s efforts to keep their lives organized and on track.

Take the few extra seconds while you’re in planning mode and writing the list, to be as specific as you can be, so that when you’re taking on a task on the fly, you can just get it done and make those delightful check marks that make sleeping at night so much easier.

Thanks for reading!

 

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