Is your to do list getting you down? Do you spend more time on it than you’d like, and use it to procrastinate? Your to do list shouldn’t be a burden, and it definitely shouldn’t be longer than five items. How do you decide which 5 items to choose? Imagine you have a great big Inbox, divided into two compartments. It holds your backlog of short-term tasks in the first compartment and your backlog of long-term projects in the second compartment. Let’s distinguish between a project and a task:

  • A project is a series of linked, bite size tasks which, done in the right order at the right time, will achieve a bigger goal. “Learn French”. Long Term. Use a calendar.
  • A task is a simple instruction with a finish timelearn 10 irregular verbs by 6pm today. Short term. Use a clock.

Your five items should always be bite-size tasks specific enough so you can do them within the space of a day. But you should pick from both compartments, so you complete short-term tasks and move forward on long-term projects. Otherwise “Learn French” could be a never-ending project, never quite finished, because there’s always more to learn. It doesn’t belong on your to do list. Other things that don’t belong on your to do list:

  • Achieve World Peace
  • Fix Global Warming
  • Improve Love Life
  • Get Dressed
  • Brush Teeth (unless you’re 5 years old)
  • Watch Television

“OK, but you still haven’t said which five items to choose”

You’ve got a great big Inbox to choose from. Which five items do you pick? How do you prioritise? There’s no hard and fast rule but you could grade tasks by difficulty. Do the difficult ones when you have most energy, and before you get too many interruptions. Do the easy ones when you need to coast a bit, but still want to feel productive. And slot in the medium ones when you can. Always, always, make sure you complete your task from the project compartment. If you find you’ve completed your five tasks, and it’s still only 3 o’clock, dive into your Inbox and pick one more.

The key thing is not to treat your Inbox as your to do list. It’s more like an assembly line. You’re moving tasks through to completion, into your Donebox.

Keep on moving.

If you get stuck, maybe you could use a coach. And if you’re not sure, you could have a sample session over Google Helpouts. Click on the link below to find out more.