Avoid the To-Do List Trap

I love me a great to-do list. I create to-do lists for nearly everything from daily task lists to bucket lists. That satisfying feeling of checking things off is so gratifying and makes me feel productive.

BUT, like with all good things, there is a dark side to to-do lists.

The Quick and Easy Trap

The motivation to check things off is awesome and much needed to help you get things done. However, if you’re not careful, that same motivation can also pull you off track of your priorities. It’s far to easy to start with all the quick and easy stuff on your list to get that hit of satisfaction of checking them off.

Does this sound familiar? You start your day with a solid to-do list you wrote out with your morning coffee. As you sit at your desk, you scan your list and start with the one that seems quick and easy. “I’m just warming up my brain,” you tell yourself. You tackle that task easily and check it off. You’re off to a strong start!

You go back to your list and scan it for what you’ll work on next. You choose another quick and/or easy task. And then another. Soon, you’re wrapping up your day and you feel pretty good because you’ve checked off a lot of stuff.

There’s only a couple of things you didn’t get to and you roll them over to tomorrow.

But wait… Aren’t they the same things that you rolled over from yesterday? And, maybe even the day before?

The problem is, when you’re in the Quick and Easy trap, the harder tasks get avoided. These harder tasks are often important, but not urgent. They are the ones outside your comfort zone, they require more work, and they aren’t as immediately gratifying or as fun to do.

They are also often the tasks that will get you to your goals. They are the tasks that will put you on the right trajectory. They are tasks that will change your life.

The Simple Fix

The good news is, there is a simple fix to freeing yourself from the Quick and Easy trap. It’s to simply identify what is the single most important task you need to complete each day. Ask yourself, “What’s is the one thing that will get me closest to my most important goal?”

Then, circle it, star it, underline it, highlight it. Write it extra big in red ink. Do whatever it takes to make it clear that it is the most important task for you to complete. Then, do whatever it takes to get that task done.

The best time to get it done if first thing in the morning. This ensures the disruptions of the day won’t get in the way. If that’s not possible, do it at your earliest opportunity.

The Simple Fix is simple, but not always easy. I challenge you to give it ago for the next seven days to start. If you accept this challenge, I’m willing to bet it will boost your confidence and you’ll have the most productive week yet.