Keeping Your Task List Front and Center

About a month ago, I started using a very simple technique to become more focused on my day-to-day work. Something had been bothering me: I’d get to the end of the day and feel like I had done a lot, but the tasks I really needed to get done often weren’t getting done. I wouldn’t call these days unproductive, but I noticed that some days I was unfocused; just flitting from one task to the next, sometimes stopping right in the middle of a task and jumping into another task. I thought about *why* I had these days and came up with a few possible reasons for these unfocused days:

  1. I did not have clearly defined tasks
  2. I started working on non-urgent tasks
  3. I got distracted from my tasks and never returned to working on them

When I looked at the list I made, it was pretty clear that the days I wasn’t feeling productive stemmed from not having or getting distracted from my list. I recalled reading a good article called The Rule of 3 on A Life of Productivity a while ago. The basic tenet is that every morning, you make a list of three things you want to accomplish and then you do them. I was mostly doing this in Trello; I have my “Actions” list ordered by priority. But, I knew this wasn’t cutting it. There are a lot of times I don’t have a web browser open and, if I do have a browser open, it’s not open to the Trello tab. So, I started writing my “Top 3” on a Post-In note and putting the note directly on my laptop (just to the right of my touchpad) or right next to my laptop.

Sometimes I make my task list for the following day before I stop work for the evening. It feels good to know I’ve already defined my tasks for the next work day. Having my list front and center means I always have my clearly defined tasks and if I find myself getting off-task, it only takes a glance down at my list to remind myself of what I *should* be working on.

4 Comments

  1. Samantha Sand

    Reply

    Sometimes the simplest, old analog ways are most effective!

    • Jessica Reilley

      Reply

      I know – funny how it took me a while to come back to this! Having that paper note right in front of me every day works so well to keep me focused on my tasks.

  2. Maria Schaller

    Reply

    Great idea, Jess! I’m a Post-It addict and they can be found all over the house but I like your idea of keeping it short and sweet with 3 items and the idea of focusing on the most important tasks first.

    • Jessica Reilley

      Reply

      Thanks! I know you love your Post-In notes and I’m glad you commented because this solution can be extended to different areas of the house, not just at an office desk.

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