Super Effective “To Do” List Trick


Not enjoying a loving relationship with your “to do” list? Not feeling the motivation and sense of urgency you think your “to do” list should generate? Feel your “to do” list is lack luster and boring? Give it a face lift!!

I heard this tip last week and was like, “duh”! With all of the “to do” list hacks and tricks I’ve read and implemented over the years, why hadn’t I seen or thought of this one before. And its super easy!

Turn your “to do” list into a list of ACTIONS by simply ensuring each item starts with a verb.

What??? “I already do that”, you might say. I say, “I bet you don’t.” After I heard this tip I immediately looked at my list for the day and the week. I had a few verbs on there but most of my items did not.

You can see for yourself. Below is a picture from Tuesday of last week.

To do list.png

Notice my list:

·       Blog: While can be used as a verb, it’s also a noun.

·       Charleston Meetup: Noun

·       Launch Pad follow up: Follow up is a verb, so that one’s not too bad.

·       Renew Business License: Verb. Good!

·       Expenses: Noun

·       Allergy Appointment: Noun

·       AES & VB Forms: Nouns

·       PB Smoothie: What I had for breakfast and not at all related to my “to do” list for the day!

All of these items were important to get done but far from motivational in the way they were written. One because there is little to no action involved with the way I wrote them. And two, because some of the items are so broad that they are a little intimidating, causing me to procrastinate work on them.

I’ll use “Blog” as an example. I clearly intended to work on a blog post that day. However, writing a blog post can be somewhat involved. I have to determine a topic. Then I do additional research if needed. Then I write the blog post. Then I schedule the post to be published. But just looking at the word “Blog” on my calendar can seem overwhelming, especially if I’m not sure what topic I’m going to write on that week.

So, what if I had written “determine blog topic” instead of just written “blog”? I probably would have knocked that off my list pretty quickly because I know it will only take me about 10 – 15 minutes to determine a topic versus viewing the task in its entirety. Then I get the immediate gratification of completing a task.

A positive side-effect of starting each item with a verb is that it forces you to break those items down into manageable chunks that seem much less intimidating and time consuming.

The same situation exists for Charleston Meetup. That item is so broad that I had to sit and think about what I needed to actually get done with that one. But I skipped it three or four times throughout the day just because I didn’t want to think about what actually needed to be done. If I had written, “create Charleston Meetup Group description” I could have just tackled it right away and moved on.

 What about the rest of my list?

What if “Expenses” were “match expense receipts” or “log expenses in QB”.

What if “Allergy Appointment” was “schedule Abigail’s allergy appointment”

What if “AES & VB Forms” were “print VB forms from AES”

The smallest tweaks tend to make the biggest difference. Why does starting with a verb work? As I mentioned earlier it forces you to break a “to do” list item into steps. It also screams action. And people tend to sooth anxiety, stress, and worry with action. So, converting your “to do” list from a list of items to a list of actions has a soothing affect by putting you in control of your day.

Give this quick tip a try and let me know how it impacts the way you feel about your own “to do” list.


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