What To Do When Your To-Do’s Have Been Grounded

airplaine taxiingWhen I have a long list of to-do’s, there is a technique I use on the tougher ones that makes them easier.  I call it taxi to takeoff.

If you have a straight-forward to-do, like “call Dr. re: appointment,” there’s not much to it. You just look at a calendar and call.

If, however, you are looking at a to-do, that requires several steps and especially if it requires some creativity, I recommend trying taxi to takeoff.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say one of your many to-do’s is “write blog.” That’s not a big deal if you can devote a whole afternoon to it, but few of us have that kind of time. We’ve usually got a list of other to-do’s to fit into our day. Because we know we require a fair amount of focus and creativity to write a blog, we tend to put that task off. The longer we put a task off, the more it weighs on our minds.

My advice is to look at that task as two parts: taxi and take-off. Before a plane can take off from any airport, it must first taxi to the runway. Similarly, before we can truly fire up our creative engines, we usually require a bit of preparation.

To continue with the blog example, perhaps you need to do a bit of research first. Maybe you need a simple outline or maybe you find you write better when you work out a catchy title first. Whatever preparation is necessary, set a time limit so it feels manageable, bring yourself to the foot of the runway, where the “good part” starts, then STOP.

Now is the perfect time to go back to some of those smaller tasks on your list. You don’t want them weighing on your mind, so NOW is your best opportunity to knock them off. You will be motivated to get through them quickly, because you are looking forward to getting back to the fun part of your blog task, waiting at the runway.

After you cross a few items off of your to-do list, you are able to hit the ground running with your blog. Your creativity can take-off, because you have already taxied into position AND you are not weighed down by your other to-do’s.

I find this technique also works for less creative tasks, like data analysis.  Collecting data can be the taxiing part and input and analysis can be the take-off part.

What techniques do you use to improve your focus and get your to-do’s to done?