Productivity Habits – Why Task Lists Are Killing Productivity

This is the second video and post I’ve done in a productivity habits series where I’m going to focus on the tools, hacks, task lists, and ideas I have on staying productive, organized and frankly – just getting stuff done.

I sell business insurance for a living and I’m involved in several different projects at the same time, including the writing and production of several videos a week.

So, staying focused and productive is critically important for me.

Over time I’ve found several hacks, if you will, to help me reach my goals, and I’m sharing them here, coming right up.

So, if you’re like me, you want to get the most out of your day.

Busy professionals basically get paid for getting stuff done.

Whether that’s engaging prospective clients to start a sales process, billing clients for your time, or making it all the way through a sales process and closing a deal.

So, the more time you can focus on business development, client interaction time, closing sales, and less time on nonsense means you’re getting paid.

Maximize this simple formula and you’ll be getting paid more and more.

Today I want to focus on productivity habits: task lists or to-do lists.

We all use them and they may seem like a necessary part of work. In fact on a zoom call last week with a good buddy of mine who’s also an insurance broker he held up six pages of tasks he had to get done.

Now, that may be a bit extreme, but just the thought of having six pages of tasks to do makes my head spin.

And that’s the point I want to focus on in this video.

Task lists are important for making sure all the things you want to get done are documented somewhere, but the problem is that when my brain sees a list that’s a full page long or longer, it goes into spin mode.

My brain doesn’t know quite what to do with this so I either divert entirely to something that’s not on my list or I default to doing the simplest things on the list to get them out of the way.

Does this sound familiar? Does this happen to you at all?

Well, the simplest tasks are probably not the tasks you’re getting paid the most money for.

In fact, the simplest is probably neither urgent nor important – they are probably non-urgent and low on the scale of importance.

In fact, they probably could be delegated to someone else on your team – if you have a team – and I’ll speak more about that in another video.

So, what’s the answer?

For me, that means creating a master task list as part of my weekly planning process which is conducted on Friday afternoon or early Monday morning.

I’ll gather all the scraps of paper, post-it notes, my legal pad, and my journal and take all the notes I’ve written to myself over the week and put them in one place on a fresh sheet of paper.

Then I prioritize them 1, 2, and 3. 1 is for the most important tasks that need to get done as soon as possible.

Tasks that earn a 1 are either very important for me, or they are part of a process for my team to get something done.

Tasks that are the second highest priorities are important and somewhat less urgent, and number 3 tasks are somewhere in the middle zone of important and urgent.

If there are any tasks that are not really important or urgent then I try and delegate them to someone on my team better suited to handle these.

Now, you may be saying – okay, you’ve prioritized your tasks, but you still may have a full sheet of them to do – what’s the point.

Well, the next two steps may seem like a waste of time, but stick with me here.

The next step is for me to enter all those tasks and their priorities into my master task list in a program called Notion.

I’ll cover this program in more detail but if you google Notion you can download a free copy of it.

This task list in Notion is my guide for the rest of the week. I scraped the paper copy and now work from my list in Notion, but it doesn’t stop there.

I also use a paper journal and you may be thinking this guy is nuts – paper – notion and paper??? what’s the deal?

Okay, I get it, I’m a bit old school but as I said from the beginning I have learned to work based on how my brain works and it’s taken me a while to figure this out.

Rather than fighting my natural brain process, I work with how I learn and think.

The reason I have a journal is twofold.

Every morning, I take the top three things from my master task list in Notion – which gets added to during the week – and write them down in my journal.

The act of physically writing and seeing just three things helps me focus on those three most important tasks.

These three tasks are very specific in nature – for example, it does say follow up on open deals – it will say follow up on a specific deal.

By having ONE place on my desk where I can view my THREE most important tasks I am not overwhelmed by a laundry list of items on a pad, or in Notion, or on my Outlook.

When I’ve completed those three tasks, I go back to Notion, check them off, and now add one to three more tasks for the balance of the day, depending on how much time is left in the day.

This helps set realistic goals, time frames, and objectives for the day.

Is it perfect?

No, certainly not. I don’t think any system is perfect, but the point is that I have a system, and that’s what helps me get my stuff done.

You may be able to take some of what I do and adapt it to a system that works for you.

The bottom line is that a task list of 25 or 250 items will make your brain confused and make you frustrated.

Priorities are your friend and focusing on just three priorities at a time will help you cut through the clutter and get more done.

Like I said at the beginning.

My goal is to get more high-leveraged activities done every day because doing so makes me more money.

I hope that process was helpful for you.


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