The Endless To-Do List

Three Ways to Work Smarter
July 10, 2012

Your inbox is overflowing. You have three different to-do lists, including one on your mobile device. Not to mention the one in your head. Dread is creeping in and wrecking what used to be a job you were passionate about. It’s time to make some changes.

“Most of your dread doesn’t come from the work itself. It comes from how you think about the work,” says Jason Womack, a workplace performance expert, executive coach and author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More
. “The psychological weight of unfinished tasks and unmade decisions is huge. There is a constant feeling of pressure to do more with less. You can’t change that reality… but you can make peace with it.”

First, Womack says, you’ve got to accept that you are never going to get it all done. The to-do list is updated daily. Instead, try giving yourself the satisfaction of a job well-done with these work-smart tips:

Time blocking and prioritization. Look at your to-do list, figure out where you have blocks of time to act on those items and then prioritize. “I keep my defined ‘work’ actions to 15 to 30 minutes each,” Womack says. “These are the chunks of time I can use to stay focused, minimize interruptions and work effectively.”

Take technology shortcuts by setting up a Microsoft Office rule that sorts incoming emails to specific folders. Or keep your current projects in a cloud folder so they’re accessible on the go. If you don’t know how, ask someone who’s tech-savvy to help.

Figure out what distracts you. Identify what is blocking your ability to give all of your attention to what needs your attention. Is it the constant ding of emails? Mute the alert sound. Is it employees or colleagues who need “just a minute” of your time? Block off visitation hours. Once you know the triggers, you can begin to make subtle changes so that you wind up getting more done.

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