In theory, just having a physical to-do list should offer some incentive to tackle it. For one thing, the act of finally drawing a line through a finished task brings its own satisfaction; for another, crossing something off means you don’t have to keep rewriting it on future lists (and, as Science of Us has noted before, laziness can be a powerful motivator when it comes to cultivating good habits).
The problem with to-do lists, though, is that they can also be their own source of anxiety. Knowing you have a zillion things to do is stressful enough; seeing it all written down — then realizing, with a mounting sense of dread, that the list is going to get even longer — is just a reminder that you will never, ever have enough time to accomplish everything you need to.
But as writer Gwen Moran recently explained in Fast Company, there’s another way to do things: a strategy called “time-blocking” that offers all of the organizational help of the to-do list — and then some — without the associated angst. It essentially boils down to reversing the process: Instead of giving every task a designated number of hours, give every hour a designated task.
Time-blocking is essentially organizing your day in a series of time slots. Instead of writing a list of tasks that take as long as they take, with a time-blocked approach, each of these time periods is devoted to a task or tasks. It immediately lets you see where you’re being unrealistic about your time and keep yourself focused on what you’re supposed to be doing.
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