Do you have a To-Do list?
There’s no doubt: lists help us get organised.
But I’m now convinced there’s a better way…
I’ve been running a standard To-Do list (using Nozbe) for a long time. Recently I devised a “fix” that has completely transformed my task management system. You can use this hack to to boost your motivation, increase your confidence and clarity in tackling day-to-day jobs and help you enjoy and appreciate even the most mundane of tasks.
And here’s the best bit: you can hack your current system in less than 5 minutes!
(If you don’t like it, you can change it back just as quickly. But believe me – you’ll love it.)
What’s wrong with your To-Do list?
Have you ever written a To-Do list and then sat and stared at it? Most of us have. Lists are great for organising what we need to do, but they don’t provide much motivation. In fact, seeing everything you have to do in one place can do the opposite: it can make you feel overwhelmed.
Even a highly-focused, productivity-ninja, laser-targeted super-list that identifies your absolutely-most-important next task can ultimately become a little “dry”. It tells you exactly what you need to do next, but what if you don’t feel like doing it?
That’s the problem with your To-Do list: All of the organisation…None of the motivation.
There’s a conflict
I stumbled across this fix almost by accident. I was reflecting on my productivity (again!) and thinking about how to use more Mindfulness to increase enjoyment in my working day (I’m really into mindfulness right now.) It dawned on me that there’s actually a conflict between trying to be both mindful and productive…
1) The productive approach
I use the 12-Week Year system (read the book, you’ll love it.) Briefly:
- Each day my tasks are aligned with a small weekly goal.
- This goal aligns with a larger 3-month goal.
- This larger goal is in turn aligned with a Key (long term) Goal.
By breaking down my Key Goals into progressively smaller aims and individual tasks, I take actions today that move me towards the future I wish to create. This sounds like a great method for Self-Improvement (or maybe it just sounds like I’m a complete geek) but then there’s…
2) The mindful approach
The power of mindfulness is focused in the present. When I am working mindfully, there is no past, nor future. I am free to enjoy and be enriched by the flow of the present moment. It is only right now that we can control or achieve anything, because the past is gone (no point dwelling on it) and the future hasn’t arrived yet (and there’s no guarantee it will.)
So, my task management system drives me towards a future enjoyment and fulfilment, but mindfulness teaches me that I must ignore that and enjoy this present moment.
To-Do lists prioritise the destination.
Mindfulness prioritises the journey.
How can I do BOTH?
The fun factor!
Here’s my solution. You will be able to make this change to your To-Do list within minutes…
Items on my old To-Do list started with a verb, for example:
- draft next week’s blog post
- hang new picture on lounge wall
- run 3 miles
- process email inbox
This is fine; starting with a verb ensures all items are clearly actionable.
But try this:
Change every verb to its “-ing” form (the gerund) and start each item with the word “enjoy”, like this:
- enjoy drafting next week’s blog post
- enjoy hanging new picture on lounge wall
- enjoy running 3 miles
- enjoy processing email inbox
Do this to every single item on your list! It will remind you that:
- Goals are good but there’s greater value if you can enjoy the process, too.
- Every task comes with an empowering challenge: “How can I enjoy doing this?”
- “Enjoyable” tasks are automatically motivating. Just dive in and enjoy the job!
It sounds too easy, doesn’t it? When I first thought of this, I dismissed it. But the idea kept nagging at the back of my mind, until I thought, “What the heck? It’s a 5-minute change. Give it a try.”
I haven’t looked back since. My To-Enjoy List is here to stay!
Having a To-Enjoy List means I don’t have to sacrifice mindfulness for focused productivity, or vice-versa.
- I can keep all of my To Do list structure, targets, goals, analytics and measures.
- Re-framing every item as a “to enjoy” task breathes new life into everything I do.
- I am reminded to think creatively about all my tasks.
- I encourage myself to get the “juice” out of every moment
- Boring or unpleasant tasks take on new interest and challenge as I find different ways to enjoy them.
- When a job appears on my list as “to enjoy” something, I am instantly motivated to get started and have fun!
Works with everything?
I guess if I think about it, I can probably still find tasks that are hard to “enjoy”. For instance, these don’t sound much fun:
- “enjoy giving the eulogy at a funeral”
- “enjoy processing company redundancies”
- “enjoy cleaning the urinals”
I bet you can think of other examples, too.
But it doesn’t have to be about “fun”. Even if a task is sad, upsetting or disgusting, you can still get satisfaction and fulfilment from knowing you have done it well, to the best of your ability in the circumstances.
Most importantly, the word “enjoy” reminds you to re-frame all of your tasks into the most positive version of them you possibly can, and then tackle each one with mindful enthusiasm and find a way to enjoy the journey.
Now it’s your turn. Trust me, it’s well worth a try. This really works!
- Create your own To Enjoy List.
- Whether you use pen and paper or a digital system like Nozbe, go to your list or task manager and change every item so that it starts with “enjoy”.
- Try it out for a few days.
- Make sure any new items added are also formatted with the “enjoy” tag.
- Keep finding fun and creative ways to perform each task.
- Stay mindful as much as you can.
- Enjoy yourself!
One more thing: don’t keep your experience to yourself! Please “Leave a Reply” at the foot of this page and encourage other readers with your experiences. I look forward to hearing how you got on.
To our continued Self-Improvement and success!
The Self-Improvement Guy