How much time to you spend thinking about things that are nagging at you?  These can be little things like “don’t forget to get the card for the party Saturday”, and “remember to pull the stuff out of the freezer to be ready for dinner” or something even more mind and mood straining like “I have to get my taxes done”. If you really think about how much time is spent thinking about things that are really just reminders, it’s kind of frightening.  Much of your day is being wasted reviewing and revisiting basic list items or project items that are subsequently made of of tasks.  This is what we refer to as “thinking about” things.

Why Thinking About Things is Killing Your Productivity

You have too few hours in a day to be spent revisiting repetitive thinking.  It’s both time wasting and mood killing when it’s happening.  You can probably imagine right now that cyclic feeling as you roll through your todo list and the stuff that is coming up on your schedule in the next week.  It isn’t a good feeling, right? Even when it does feel fine you are still wasting time.  These nagging tasks and thought patterns can break up your deep thought work which is necessary and healthy.

What is “Thinking Of”?

Imagine the times that you are working on an idea, or coming up with a plan, or collaborating with a colleague on a project.  Just imagining it is inspiring me already!  I love when new ideas are forming and plans are being created.  It’s a beautiful and freeing feeling. The mental effort of thinking of new things is much greater than that of just revisiting lists of items.  That’s both good and challenging.  It’s good because it unlocks a part of your brain that really opens up excitement and amazing creative results.  It’s challenging because it requires attention and focus and reduced distraction. Thinking of things is building something from nothing. It’s going from zero to one.  It’s making value from ideas.  It’s a fantastic feeling as it’s happening and when you get to see it through to creation.

How to Use Todo Lists to Elevate Productive Thinking

That time you are wasting on rethinking your task list is literally something that should be done a couple of times a day.  You should be reviewing lists instead of carrying them around in your head. Here are your big ticket DOs and DON’Ts to
  • DO write any tasks in a todo list
  • DO prioritize your top 3 tasks for each day
  • DO revisit your todo list a few times a day at specific times
  • DON’T get caught in repetitive thinking – easier said than done at first
  • DON’T load up too many priority items – you can only do one thing at at time and a few priority tasks a day
  • DON’T lose focus when deep work is needed
Losing focus pulls you out of deep work and deep thought and causes you to have to context switch.  That means the ramp up to getting back into deep thought takes time and effort which is both difficult and time consuming.  This is time well spent when done with purpose and intent.  It’s wasted when you are doing it reactively because you lost your focus because of a distraction. We have more coming on how to get into that deep thought and deep work focus level.

Get Started Now!

You can start today by setting up your todo list and setting specific times of the day that you allow yourself to look at it.  Try a few times like 9 AM, Noon, and 3 PM for daytime review and updating of the todo list, and at 8 PM you should reflect on your day and review the list. This technique lets you move towards a more focused approach and to create habitual behavior using natural and very achievable methods.  Small bites and regular wins. Even as simple is “read the blog” can be a task.  Because you made it here, you can mark that one completed!      

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