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4 Strategies for Cutting Your To-Do-List in Half

Isn’t it overwhelming to see your To-do-list bulging day after day?

The problem with To-do-Lists is that you never see them reducing, they always keep getting bigger and bigger.

4 Strategies for Cutting Your To-Do-List in Half. Image: ShutterStock

4 Strategies for Cutting Your To-Do-List in Half. Image: ShutterStock

You had 27 items yesterday. You somehow manage to cross 9 items (small or big) today. But what about new 13 items that arrived at your desk today?

So, what do we do?

Can we stop them from piling up?

Is there any way, we can control our to-do-lists?

Yes, that’s very much possible and I’ll tell you four simple techniques that can cut your to-do-list into half as quickly as you start to implement. Let’s learn about how to not let our To-Do-List overwhelm and dominate us, rather how we can take control over it.

Content Summary

#1- OHIO Principle
#2: Follow 2-Minute Rule
#3: Batch Your Activities
#4: 4D/A Rule

#1- OHIO Principle

OHIO stands for “Only Handle It Once”.

Highly successful people have the habit of handling the things in one single go. They don’t handle a thing multiple times.

Let me give you an example of email processing. You opened your email and one email required you to pay an invoice, that can be paid quickly or you have to forward one already shared document or some other details with someone else (say a few seconds job). But you end up noting down that activity separately to do it later.

The basic idea behind “Only handle it once” is that whenever you get an incoming task in front of you, you decide right away what to do with it.

Now, this does not mean that whenever you get a task, that you have to complete it right away. You can decide and delegate what to do with the task, as long as you take care of the task, meaning you either finish it, delegate it, or put into your task manager

Highly productive people have the habit of handling the thing at once. In the above example, they’d simply take the action quickly.

Though OHIO principle can’t be applied to complex or bigger projects requiring others’ involvement. But for most small items, you can immediately cross the item and don’t let that item get into your To-Do-List.

Therefore, once should develop the habit of handling the things once.

Give yourself a quick minute and

Introspect and see what all activities you have on your desk that you can apply the OHIO principle immediately, and not let them get into your to-do-list.

#2: Follow 2-Minute Rule

“If you can do a task in two minutes, do it straight away.” — Sam Bell

Yes, that’s what a 2-minute rule is all about.

Generally, people have the habit of compiling all the task and putting them in some To-do-list.

But here is the thing.

If some activity just takes 2-minutes or less, it’s better to address that activity immediately. Every pending activity big or small takes the cognitive bandwidth of your mind. Our minds get overwhelmed by the sheer number of items to do.

Also, it’s not worth spending another 2-minutes to capture the activity to be done and then do it later.

For example, if you are supposed to send one quick piece of information after the end of your call- and it takes less than two minutes, the answer is to handle that request immediately.

Again you didn’t allow the item to bulge your to-do-list.

You can start doing this immediately and feel the relaxation of getting rid of that activity quickly.

#3: Batch Your Activities

The activities that don’t fall into OHIO principle or 2-minutes Rule and if it’s only you who has to do that activity (means the activity is not to be delegated further), then you should batch the similar activities in one batch.

Batching simply means to put all the activities, which are of similar nature in one basket and then allocating a specific time schedule to address that basket only.

For example, following categories of items can be batched in one go:

  • Making a phone call: allocate 30-40 minutes for just making phone calls and do all the phone calls in one single batch.
  • Responding to emails: another slot of 30 minutes, where you just respond to all emails.
  • High-quality work requiring creativity: allocate bigger chunk of dedicated hours with an intense focus here.

Batching helps you to reduce the To-do-list quickly because of the following reasons:

Firstly, you undertake to do all the similar activities in one go, so you get into a state of flow and knock off many items quickly.

Secondly, you feel motivated to handle the activities quickly, because the nature of activities is similar and it doesn’t require too much of your cognitive switching that’s needed in different nature of work.

#4: 4D/A Rule

The 4D/A rule is on the premise that for any activity in front of you, you have to make either of these choices amongst 4Ds and A. Next time any activity, which comes to you, you have to test that activity on the barometer of 4D/A. It means you have to categorize that activity into any of the below-stated actions:

  • Delete it;
  • Defer it,
  • Delegate;
  • Do it,
  • Automate it.

If you follow the above practices of categorizing your work activities amongst the above parameters you will never feel overwhelmed. The reason behind that is for the first three kinds of decisions, it is not coming to your “immediate” basket, so you make your ‘current’ action list uncluttered.

Generally speaking, there are only a limited number of activities requires your immediate attention. Also, if you see the last two categories, even in the case of activities, which you are supposed to handle yourselves, you have two choices. Either you can do it yourself, or you may consider automating the process by building some system or processes, so that next time, it gets done on an automated basis.

Hope you will find these 4 strategies useful in reducing your to-do-list significantly. My personal favorite is 4D/A technique.

By Som Bathla

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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