Two co-workers were on vacation, and I had to cover their work plus my own.
I sat down at the beginning of the day….and just stared at my computer screen: Paralyzed! I had so many things to accomplish, but I couldn’t figure out which tasks were the most important, so I froze.
Cynthia Kim, in her article, Executive Function Series, defines executive function as “an umbrella term for the cognitive processes that help us regulate, control, and manage our thoughts and emotions.”
Executive function includes initiating action, planning, attention, and problem-solving.
Purchase one calendar to record all your appointments in. Here’s one I’ve listed for you. You can order it through Amazon, or you can just buy one at your nearest office supply store.
Purchase a notebook to record everything you need to do. Each day, I start with a fresh page for my daily tasks. I keep a Master To Do list in the back of the notebook.
Will You Help Me Free Yourself explains in-depth how to use these two simply powerful items. Before you try any other online computer system, or phone app, or slick organizational system, just use the Calendar and Notebook for 21 days straight. You’ve got to form a habit.
Here are some questions and tips to help you form your daily habit:
Where will you keep the notebook and calendar? I make sure I keep them in the same bag every day. You might even consider using a rubber band to keep the calendar and notebook together.
How will you remember to use it every day?
How will you remember to look at your task list every day? Pick the same time every day to look at your task list – e.g., when you feed your dog, after you brush your teeth, or when you’re having your morning coffee or breakfast
Prioritize – Two Methods to Prioritize Your To Do List
Before you start your day, write down everything you need to do on a fresh sheet of paper.
ABC Method –
Use this method to separate your to do items accordingly –
A Tasks – are the tasks of highest importance. This means they must be completed in the short-term (like today or tomorrow)
B Tasks – are of less importance, to be done over the long-term. Some portions of the task should be completed in the short-term, but the other portions may take longer.
C tasks – are the least importance, and may be attractive and easier to do, but are not as important as tasks with higher rankings.
In this method, you will work only on the A tasks first, then the B tasks, and then C if you have time. You always work the A tasks first, so that you are completing the most important tasks first.
Low Effort High Impact
Mark Joyner, of Simpleology, taught me this method for sorting my daily tasks.
Go through your list of To Do’s.
Rate each items with two different scores: Ease and Impact. For each item on your list, think, “How easy will it be for me to do this item, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the easiest?”
Then ask yourself, “How much impact will this item have, both in the short-term and in the long-term?”
Out of necessity–because I have no boss to impose deadlines or fire me if I’m not productive–I’ve developed a whole bag of tricks to get myself through the initiation phase. Telling myself I’m just going to read something over before I start editing. Starting with the easiest or most appealing aspect of a project. Setting fake deadlines or creating rewards for getting a certain number of pages done in a day. Talking to someone about a project I need to start planning. Using one project to “procrastinate" on another. It seems silly that I have to trick myself into starting projects that I know are inevitable, but it works. And hacking executive function is all about what works.
Commit to using the calendar and notebook system daily.
Organize by writing your to do list daily.
Prioritize using the ABC Method, or Low Effort High Impact Method.
Focus using the suggestions above, including the Pomodoro Method and Tricking Your Brain.
Finally, don’t think you have to get everything on the list done in one day. If, at the end of the day, you only finished one task, carry the rest of the tasks over to the next day. They’ll be there for you when you start the next day.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."