How to Make Your Todo List a “Menu of Productivity”

You are what you eat.  We all know this truism.

But how about: You are what you do.

One could say that your todo list is your “menu of life.”  It determines what you do and thus what you become.

The Todo List as a Menu

One of the biggest issues people have in being productive is that they do not know what they should be doing.

Those who jump on whatever task happens to come their way, often find at the end of the day that they did not accomplish what they intended. They may get the urgent done, but not the important.

Part of the issue is they don’t have a good list of their tasks.  One technique is to look at your todo list as a “menu” of what you should be doing throughout the day.

Lists can be a powerful aid in the struggle to keep track of what to do.  Some people love lists.  Others hate them.

Either way, lists are powerful.  They help us in many ways:

  • Driving accountability – Whether a project plan, technical procedure, or just a simple todo list, lists help ensure that all things are completed.
  • Ensuring things are not overlooked – When doing complex tasks, lists ensure that steps are not forgotten or skipped.
  • Allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand – Lists allow you to concentrate on your work instead of trying to remembering all of the other things you need to do.
  • Enabling repeatability – Lists can help us perform repeat tasks with little or no effort.  A travel packlist is a great example of this.  If you have one, you can pack quickly and not forget items.  If you do not, you probably find yourself wondering why you don’t have toothpaste while on your business trip.

Of course, just having a list is not enough to make sure you are doing what you should be.  It is what is on the list that’s important.

What’s on your Menu?

Just as with our bodies, if you fill your todo menu with junk food, you will become unproductive and out-of-shape.

It is easy to make a list.  However, you want to fill your todo menu with the things that matter.  You will find that your productivity and results will be defined by what you layout for completion.

Early on, you will probably find yourself putting completed tasks on your list, simply so that you can cross them off.  That is OK.  It means that you are getting things done that should have been on your list.

As you advance, you will develop the skills to realize what should be on your list.  Your lists will become more tactical not only in terms of what you should be doing, but also what you should not be doing. (Keep the non-productive things off your todo list!)

Keep in mind that it is one thing to make a good list, and another to actually use it.  Once you have disciplined yourself to make a list of what’s important, it is equally important to stay on the menu.

Ways to Use your Menu to Drive Productivity

A good menu of todos in the foundation for increased productivity.  Here are some ways that your “todo menu” will help you:

  • Keeps you on track – Most people tend to go “off menu.”  When you are not doing what is on your list, you are probably doing things that are of low importance.  If it is not on the list…don’t do it.  If it needs to be done…add it to the list.
  • Gets you to do the things that matter – Ironically, most of us tend to not do the things we tell ourselves are most important.  Things like exercising, starting a hobby, and doing things to expand our business.  You must put these things on your list.
  • Lets You Focus – Having a list leads to improved concentration.  Without a menu, you tend to be unfocused because you are always trying to determine “what” you should be doing.  With a good menu, you can decide “what you should be doing now.”
  • Keeps your todos visible – Just as important as staying on menu, is to always look at your menu.  Visibility to your todos leads to productivity.  When you are aware of what is on your menu, you will be amazed at the creative ways that you complete things.
  • Helps overcome periods of low energy or motivation – When you are tired or unmotivated is when you are most likely to waste time.  Go to your menu and you will find motivation in things you forgot you needed to do.  You may find a low effort task or something that excites you to bring your energy level up.
  • Avoids wasted time and things that take you off-track – Instead of watching TV or zoning while waiting (like at a doctor’s office), you can look at your menu for things to complete.

Stay on the Menu

You are what you eat, and you become what you do.

Make sure you have a good menu of todos and that you actually use it.

By the way, when you are reminded of important things that you don’t even remember putting on your list…that means it’s working. 🙂

7 thoughts on “How to Make Your Todo List a “Menu of Productivity”

  1. “….when you are reminded of important things that you don’t even remember putting on your list…that means it’s working.”
    Truer words have never been spoken.

  2. “….when you are reminded of important things that you don’t even remember putting on your list…that means it’s working.”
    Truer words have never been spoken.

  3. Very cool comparison!
    Menus are great but if you stay in the same place often an off menu item or chefs special dish of the day can be the best thing you had in a while.

    I would agree that list are great guides for keeping up on tracks but it often happens that best ideas and products just show up in our heads. So it’s not always bad if you stay away from the list.

    Thanks for keeping this blog, always a great read.

  4. Very cool comparison!
    Menus are great but if you stay in the same place often an off menu item or chefs special dish of the day can be the best thing you had in a while.

    I would agree that list are great guides for keeping up on tracks but it often happens that best ideas and products just show up in our heads. So it’s not always bad if you stay away from the list.

    Thanks for keeping this blog, always a great read.

  5. Try eliminating your to do list. As you identify things that need to be done ask “Do I have everything I need to get started?”. If “No” than you know what you next need to do. If “Yes” ask “How long will it take?”. If their are steps break it down into manageable pieces. Now the magic, instead of writing it on an endless to do list schedule the action/next step in time. This will help you also get really good at knowing what you can and cannot get done in the 24 hours of your day. No more over committing. And it is much easier to say “No”.

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