Use an Assistant:
I like it when you draft tomorrow’s TO-DOne list today, before you go to bed. And I want you to write it as if you’re laying out instructions to an assistant who will be doing your work for you. I’ve mentioned this concept in a previous post on how to get more done and will be talking about this step more deeply in future pieces as well.
This is the first step in developing a useful list, because instructions you can understand and follow are tasks you can more readily and willingly do. Vagueness is the the largest destroyer of dreams. An item on your TO-DOne list that reads, “work on book” will be the kiss of death to your dreams of a published manuscript. If you tasked your assistant to “work on book” she would come back to you and have to ask you to be more specific. Be more specific!
Once you have a list of a few tasks you would like your assistant to accomplish the following day, you are well on your way to a much more productive and enjoyable tomorrow. If you do the next two suggestions, you can expect to be even more motivated and productive. The best and worst part of these next two tricks is their simplicity. The best part is they work. The worst part is that they are so, so very simple you are likely to think they can’t possibly do a thing. But you would be wrong. Don’t be wrong, do these tricks.
Pad Your List:
This little, simple trick is often the most effective motivator in your tool kit and the hardest to get you to use. All I can say to this is, “I can lead a horse to water but sometimes I still have to hydrate them with an intravenous drip.”
Your action list is not complete until you add one or two padding items. These are items that you know, for sure, you are going to do. Or they are so easy you will gladly do them just to avoid doing something scary on your list for just a few more minutes.
I usually put two padding items on my list every day. Here are a few that show up most often on my list.
- Make bed
- Wash fry pan
- Take a shower
- Eat breakfast
- Take a nap
- Brush teeth
- Hug Matthew
The reason why you want to have these items on your list is that they contribute to your all-important “MO4” (yes, I know what that sounds like; I want you to remember it): MOre energy, MOtivation, MOmentum, and MOjo. Crossing one thing off your list, even something silly, WILL release MO4 into your system and make it easier to cross the next thing off. I don’t know all the brain science behind why this is true, but I have plenty of real world data that tells me this truly works.
You might want to use your first padded item to get the ball rolling at the beginning of the day. I often save both of mine for when my energy is at its lowest, around noon (I start my day at 4 am). It is especially easy to do the “take a nap” item around that time.
If you print out a physical list, then cross off your padded task right after it’s done. If you have your list on your computer, keep it on your desktop throughout the day and change the color of items as you complete them. In other words…
Green Your List:
This is especially useful for visual thinkers. As a matter of fact, if you are a visual thinker I would not use any kind of to-do app that does not offer this option! (Yes, I am looking into creating a ProNagger TO-Done List app and have a great name for it. If you ask me in the comments what the name is, I’ll tell you.) Even if you’re not that visual you will find great satisfaction in seeing your list turn from black to green. Green, the color of growing your confidence and success! Once I finally convince a client to try padding and greening their lists they are amazed, every one of them, at how great these simple tricks really boost their productivity.