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What to do When Your ‘To-Do List’ is Trying to Destroy You

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Writing used to be fun. Then it wasn’t. Then productivity wanted to kill me. I grew my business, made more money, and everything got miserable. My to-do list was trying to destroy me.

Even worse, it had me under a spell that was making me do all the nasty work to infiltrate my subconscious and then extinguish my own happiness and well-being.

But I thought this was what I wanted! What had happened…?

Here is what you can do to organise, prepare, and do, to achieve positive results. Don’t let your to-do list sabotage and overwhelm you. It should be a powerful assistant, not your biggest enemy…

A) Understand that ultra-productivity isn’t always a good thing

Productivity should always come second to quality and happiness.

I was focused way too much on completing my list every day that I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing anymore. What I loved doing before became a chore. Even writing these articles became something I just wanted to tick off every week. That’s very dangerous. Eventually, quality will diminish, along with your contentment.

I love writing these articles, it is the time in my week when I can be 100% creative. There is no specification, I write about what is on my mind. I learn as I write, I even entertain myself sometimes. They are my escape and my therapy. I wanted to enjoy them again. So, I gave myself more time to write, edit and produce them, and I gave myself permission to enjoy writing again.

I’m smiling right now.

Related — Can Success Really Lead to Happiness?

B) Everything takes longer than you think

Another step I took was to add half hour gaps between tasks to take the pressure off. This made a massive difference. Work days are full of distractions (some of them important that need your attention), most drivers are bad and will hold you up, technology isn’t always reliable, other people can’t always be relied on, bad things happen all the time that are out of your control.

Understand this, don’t let it frustrate you. Conserve your energy for doing the important things well that you can control.

C) What’s important can change quickly, and constantly

I gave myself permission to strike off jobs that were no longer important that day. When I launched the new website recently I encountered new problems and opportunities to make it better every day. This always took priority.

If an important client needs something right away that might take preference too. Or maybe a family thing comes up and it needs your attention for the day. You are the boss of your task list, not the other way around.

D) To-do list ZERO shouldn’t be the goal for the day, any day

I always have between 5-10 things a day I want to get done, some big important things, others as irrelevant as cleaning the latest shite out of the cat litter tray. So, I do what Tim Ferriss suggests – ask yourself, ‘if I achieve just this one thing today would it be a good day?’

I now pick my most critical 1-3 things to do that day that would make it a success. Everything else on the list is treated as a ‘nice to do,’ they are not essential.

Again, take the pressure off. Do the important things well.

E) Everything can be fun, even when it’s not

Most emotional reactions in life manifest from mindset. If you tell yourself something is going to suck, then it will. If you’re excited about something, you’ll likely enjoy it more.

How you approach one thing should be how you approach everything. Ideally, positively and with enthusiasm.

Related — The Horror and the Glory

Why even have a to-do list then?

For me they’re incredibly powerful. I love lists, nothing slips through the net. They bring structure, organisation, and if used properly can lead to top performance, every day.

Just don’t do what I did and make the list more important than the tasks themselves. To-do lists need to be liquid, not rigid.

You have control, don’t be a slave to productivity, make it work for you.

-Matthew Brown

Thanks for reading. Have you got your free copy of The Business of Life Playbook yet? It’s my first e-book and it’s out now! 20 pages, 7,000+ words, 50 life-changing tactics. Get your free copy here. Add it to your to-do list today!

The Business of Life Playbook: 50 life-changing tactics to design a rich life

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