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I just have one question today – y’all ready for this? We are going to jam out on mastering your to-do list. Yep, I have some college basketball music on the brain. My oldest son is applying and going away next year and I have all of that on my brain.


I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been procrastinating with all of this college prep stuff for a little bit too long. It’s the beginning of the year and he goes away in the fall. Most of the people have already applied and gotten acceptance letters and we’re just now doing that because Mom has been putting it off.


We all struggle with procrastination. We all struggle with the problem or the habit of putting things on our to-do list that just get moved to the next day. Then tomorrow comes and they get moved to the next day. They’ve been lingering on your to-do list for so long that you just don’t care. You’re not trying to get them off anymore. Eh, whatever! It will get done when it gets done. I’m guilty of that. I know you’re guilty of that.


Listen to the podcast:

Some Mindset Hacks for Your To-Do List

I want to help you get over that. There are a few mental, mindset hacks that we can do to make your to-do list more efficient.


First, you need to know what motivates you to get those things on the to-do list done. It’s the brain’s craving for dopamine. Anytime we do something that creates a change in the external world, we get a little hit of dopamine, the hormone that is pleasurable. Our bodies see dopamine as a reward. When a dog does something really great and gets a treat, the reward is instantaneous. We live in a world where we want instantaneous. We don’t want to wait forever and forever to get them.


We want to find ways to build in rewards that we can achieve quickly so that we are building in rewards and giving our brain a little hit of pleasure – a little pat on the back, a little gold star.


Think about the things that are typically on your to-do list. Are the tasks big, cloudy, boring? When I say cloudy I mean not clear, not very specific. We want to minimize the amount of thinking we have to do during action mode. When we sit down to our to-do list, we are in planning mode. Do as much of the thinking as you can during the planning mode.


Think of the two different modes as the boss and the employee. In planning mode, you are the boss. You have to write down explicit directions for the employee so that when the boss needs, the employee knows what to do. That way when you go into action mode and take over the employee type roll, you know what to do.


Take groceries or dinner planning as an example. When you just write down grocery shop on the to-do list and it becomes time for grocery shopping, just thinking about makes you tired. You don’t know what to get or what you’re doing when you get there. You’ve done it so many times that you relatively know what to do, but you don’t have a plan. Unless you have already done the homework and created a list. If you know exactly what you’re going to the grocery store for and you just have to go up and down the aisles to grab what you need.


Same thing with making dinner. If you just write down “make dinner” and it comes to the end of the day, you have to think of what to make. What do you have the ingredients for? After thinking, you have to do the work.


To make a to-do list more effective and efficient, you want to take all of the thinking and do it in the planning session. I’m going to give you some tips to make your planning session and the action after more efficient.


1.  Start with an action word.


Everything on your to-do list should start with a verb. It shouldn’t just say grocery shop, it should say “Go to the grocery store.” It should also have the details of exactly what you’re going to buy. It’s very clear. You know exactly what to do.


Instead of “Call John.” You want to say “Call John and ask about Friday night plans.”


You want to start it with a verb, but you want to follow it up with a specific reason of why you are doing this thing.


2. Break all of the things on your to-do list into small tasks.


If it takes longer than 30 minutes, break that baby down into smaller tasks. As you whip through them and get them done, you start to feel more and more accomplished. Every time you check something off of your to-do list, your brain gets the reward of dopamine.


In 30 minutes, you get a reward. 30 minutes, another one. So if you have a 3-hr task to embark on, break it down into 30-minute milestones. What can you get done in 30 minutes? When that thing is done, check it off and allow that feeling of accomplishment to sink in for a minute. Give your brain a chance for that dopamine, so you can feel good. Your brain is going to start to develop connections that want you to keep going.


It’s a way of tricking your brain into motivating itself. You have to do less in terms of self-motivation. You have to expend less energy in that area.


3. Chunk similar tasks together.


If there’s a lot of things, items or tasks on your to-do list, think about how to categorize them. Chunk together the ones that are similar. Say you have a lot of errands to do, see if you can group them together on the same day instead of spreading it out throughout the week.

If you’ve got tasks that are more thinking focused tasks like research, writing, writing emails, researching on the internet, chunk together computer tasks so you’re in the same energetic zone. You can get as much done as possible while you are in that frame of mind.


Think about what your typical tasks look like in a given day or week and look at some similarities. Move them around in your calendar and chunk them according to category and see if that improves your efficiency and see if you can plan better and get more done in those chunks of time.


4. Have fun with it


Simply checking something off can feel like a reward. It allows you to pay attention, notice and validate the fact that you got something done. If you beef it up a little bit and have a little fun with it, it’s going to feel even more rewarding.


If you are a user of apps like Trello or FitBit, you’ll notice that they will change color or say “Yay! You got this done.”


It’s fun to see that you’ve created a change!


When you are creating your to-do list see if you can incorporate some fun or flair into it. Use colored markers or pens. Use stickers. There’s a reason the stars from when you were a little girl work so well.


When we can visually see a change, our brain says “Oh! We did that, we created a change.:” That releases more dopamine.


5. Create a done list.


We’ve talked about changing your brain to love baby steps so that you create more momentum. With each dopamine hit and finishing something small, you are able to keep going. The done list helps you focus on accomplishments, wins and the distance traveled.


At the end of the day you’ve been checking things off your to-do list, it’s easy to overlook all of the things you’ve gotten done. Every time you get something done, check it off your to-do list and add it to your done list so that at the end of the day you can look at your done list and see all of the things you got done.


You will feel like a badass. You don’t realize how much you got done. You were a powerhouse.


It will also help you hone in on how much time things take so you can make adjustments going forward that are going to work better for you. The longer you do this, the better you’re going to get.


6. Schedule Reviews


Daily, you can look at your done list, but weekly, you want to plan a session to look at your week. Look at the progress you’ve made, celebrate success and make adjustments for the next week.


Was your timing off? Did you significantly underestimate how much time specific tasks would take? Did you spend too much time on them when you wanted them to be perfect? Did you focus too much on quality when you should have been focusing on quantity?


Are you engaging in procrastination behaviors? When are you doing that? What tasks are you avoiding and what behaviors are you engaging in as a way to procrastinate? As you do this more and more you’re going to learn more about yourself.


You’re going to get smarter and more efficient.


7. Plan Ahead


I love the idea of planning your day, one evening in advance. So, I’m going to sit down today and go over my done list. I’m going to look over my schedule tomorrow and plan what needs to get done, how long I’m going to spend on it and what I want it to look like.


I do this right before bed because it allows my brain to work out any kinks or problems overnight. Your brain doesn’t sleep even though you do. So if you plan your day in advance and you know it will be a busy day and you think about how you need to plan some time for yourself and stay relaxed and zen, you’re nervous about this and that, but you know you’re going to have a successful day.


You go to sleep. Your brain says “Ok, this is on her mind,” Your brain goes to work while you’re sleeping and visualizes the day in advance so that it does go as you want it to go. You’re more likely to have a successful day. When you do this, you plan all night and you wake up in action mode.


You don’t have to spend any energy on your plan, you are already in go mode. You  can start in a whole full cup of energy and you can start whipping through that list.  You don’t have to burn energy to think, you just go.


These have massively helped me over the years. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and I have to come back and recommit When I’m in these habits I get so much more done and I’m more efficient and I’m happier. It really transforms my efficiency in my business and I know it will have a crazy awesome effect in your business, too


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