To-do list driving you to distraction?
Here’s how to get stuff done.
When we read that procrastination isn’t laziness, but a complex emotional response, we momentarily felt less bad about our ever-expanding to-do list. But then we realized that didn’t actually help clear the list, so the good vibes didn’t last.
So we went looking for genuine ways to break through the backlog. Here’s what we found.
Sounds weird. Works.
There’s heaps of productivity techniques out there, all with impressive-sounding scientific credentials and odd-sounding names.
Some people swear by the “25 minutes on, five off” Pomodoro method. Others say Kanban – limiting your to-do list to three tasks at one time, and operating a ‘one-out, one-in’ approach to new tasks – is the productivity panacea.
What works for you will, inevitably depend on your working style, your job, and so on. But don’t dismiss them out-of-hand – try a few and see what sticks.
This tends to split people between “it essential to concentrate”-types and “it’s just distracting’-types. Interestingly, the evidence suggests there’s some truth to both views.
Certain types of music (or ambient sounds like the hum of a coffee shop) have been shown to aid concentration. But on the flip-side, music with vocals (or worse, a catchy chorus) is likely to just distract us from our work.
Let’s face biological facts. Our brains weren’t designed to multi-task – Cavemen just focused on killing (or not being killed by) mammoths. They weren’t trying to update their Instagram feed at the same time.
Trying to multi-task makes us less efficient and produce lower quality work. In fact, according to one study, the detrimental effect of multi-tasking on our IQ is similar to going the night without sleep!
It’s the archetypal six-year-old’s response to being asked to do pretty much anything. But could it actually work for your task list? Before you start something, think about why you’re doing it. It’ll help you focus on what’s important in the task, and give you the energy boost to get it done.
Kill the notifications
That pop-up envelope in the corner of your screen. The beep of a new WhatsApp message. That little dot on your Twitter app icon… all of them distract us from the task in hand (and are literally addictive). It’s so bad that just knowing you have an unread email, even if you don’t check it, can cut your effective IQ by 10 points. So switch them off.
Ready? Set? Crush that List!