Angie Hillis
Apr 28

How to gain a 27-hour day: list-making

Posted by Angie Hillis, on Apr 28 2014

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow gain more hours in our day? Even just a couple more? Although not technically possible, using simple mind tools like list-making will make you feel like you’ve added bonus hours to your day.


Lists are as old as time itself


The use of lists is perhaps one of the few things that most people and cultures share throughout history. It’s a way for us to make sense of the world around us. For example, when we are asked to describe something we tend to rattle off descriptive features such as size, colour and features.


Fast Company posted an article late last year on the amazing history of the to-do list and it’s an interesting read if you’ve got the time. The main point from this piece is that no matter how trivial (or perhaps juvenile) it may seem to jot down tasks, there is no denying the effectiveness of the humble to-do list. Even Benjamin Franklin was a fan.


So lists are a fantastic tool to effectively manage your time, no matter what you’re trying to get done. But here’s the catch: it needs to be done properly. There is no use making a list for the wrong thing or ticking things off in the wrong order.


Understand how your mind works


Understanding how your mind works is the first step in crafting a good to-to list. You might already know that we have two awareness states within our minds: the conscious and the unconscious. The difference between the two is pretty straightforward. The conscious mind consists of what thoughts are running through your mind right now. Hopefully you’ve got ideas and opinions about this blog post. The unconscious mind is filled with the things that we “tuck away for later” in order to focus on now.


Simple enough? It get’s a little trickier. Since the unconscious mind doesn’t like to have so many things tucked away, it brings the reminders back to the attention of the conscious mind. This is why you suddenly have the thought to pick up your dry cleaning after work. (For psychology enthusiasts, this is known as the Zeigarnik Effect.)


How does this help my list-making?


What this means for list-making is that by paying attention to your immediate awareness of what needs to be done, coupled with your unconscious reminders, you can now effectively prioritise and bunch tasks. There is no need to have one mega-list of all the things you must complete in your lifetime. It’s not productive and it’s not healthy. Instead, categorise using the mind habits that we just talked about. When you make your list, write down everything you’re aware of that needs to be completed. Then, throughout the day when your unconscious mind pops in to remind you of something, jot this down on a separate list. Chances are it is a reminder that can wait. But by doing this simple trick, you are taking stress off the mind so you can better focus on the now.


List-making is very personal


The possibilities for making lists are endless. If you’re a wizard with new technology, there are literally hundreds of mobile apps, websites and laptop applications to help you craft the perfect to-do. We covered just a few of them in our recent post 10 productivity apps for facility managers.


For those that prefer the traditional pen and paper method, then stick with that. Choose whatever allows you to best manage multiple lists and juggle your daily tasks. It might even be a combination of the two.


Rome wasn’t built in a day


No matter how hard we try, we cannot cram everything we would like to get done into an 8 or 9 hour workday. Creating lists based on project length or size is also a way to ensure you’re prioritising and not cramping up your daily to-do. So if you don’t get everything ticked off when you leave the office, try not to beat yourself up about it. Simply add them to the next morning’s list!


Do you use lists? Is it something you would like to try or better improve? Let us know, we’d love to hear how you manage your productivity.

Angie Hillis

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