Ditch the To-Do List

Its spring! The sky is blue and the grass is green and the beer patios are calling you. But wait – you’re stuck at your computer. You have a serious deadline to meet. Or worse – perhaps you have to clean the windows, or put the kid’s hockey equipment in storage.

And as if it couldn’t get worse, what is really annoying is this: you could have done this last week, when it was cold and rainy BUT YOU PROCRASTINATED!! Sound familiar? Read on if you want to learn a few tricks to keep you ahead of the onslaught so you can get to that patio for some great spring fun.

Ditch the To-Do List. Sound scary? Is your to-do list the only thing keeping you from a core meltdown? If so, then you are probably not using your to-do list in the most effective way.

To-do lists are more frequently used for short term, immediate tasks that MUST be done. And you already know what these tasks are – feed the children, have a shower, buy your metropass. Sometimes your to-do list gets so full of tasks that it can not be used for what it is really good for – scheduling in unexpected or infrequent tasks like going to the dentist, for example. Here, having a to-do list helps to you look ahead to find a time when a trip to the dentist fits in.

Procrastination happens when your to-do list gets so full of daily, predictable tasks that you can not accommodate an unexpected or infrequent task. You put it off, or schedule very far forward. Or just decide you will deal with it later. And later never comes soon enough.

If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. You can use the ‘parking lot’ technique to help you deal with procrastination. Combine this with your to-do list, and you will have an effective method for taking care of short term tasks, while never losing site of those longer term issues.

Imagine a parking lot – cars move in, park, and then they move out. Less urgent tasks, that might be prime targets for procrastination, are just like cars. You want to move them into your parking lot, let them sit for a brief period of time, then move them out. Parking lots make more money when the cars keep moving in and out as quickly as possible.

So here is how you do it:

Pick 1 task that you are procrastinating on right now in your life. What 5 SMALL actions could you do that would bring you 1 step closer to completing that task? For example, if you need to go to the dentist, you could do the following: look up your dentist’s phone number, find 3 possible appointment times, make an appointment, get your insurance information written down, and find childcare for your appointment time. Each of these small tasks represents a car in your parking lot.

Now back to your to-do list! Each day on your to-do list, schedule in 5 – 30 minutes of time dedicated to moving a car out of your parking lot. Within a week, 5 items will be taken care of and moved out of your parking lot. You will be set up to visit the dentist when your appointment time comes. If something remains in your parking lot for longer than a week, consider that car abandoned, and tow it to the dump.

Clearly, it wasn’t significant enough to warrant attention, so you probably don’t need to do it anyway. The trick to keeping your parking lot moving is this: keep your tasks as small as possible. If a daily task is too big, you probably won’t do it anyway. You can think of this as preferring economy cars over an SUV.

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