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Articles on Freelance Writing Success
- Bob Bly
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- Nick Usborne
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by Nick Usborne
Every freelancer has a to-do list. It's a fundamental tool we all use.
Without a to-do list we'd lose track of the projects and tasks we need to work on and complete.
The trouble is, not everyone uses these lists correctly.
Here are two ways in which your to-do list can work against you.
Problem #1. If you don't add everything to the list.
When we have a small number of tasks to remember, it's tempting not to put them on the list at all. We can carry three or four tasks in our heads without too much trouble.
The problem arises when you have a list of things to do, but don't add all those items you are carrying in your head.
As soon as you start to rely on a list, there is a temptation not to double-check on those items in your head.
In other words, as soon as it's not on the list, you forget it.
We have all experienced this when we take a shopping list to the store. Maybe while leaving home we think "Ooops, I forgot to add milk to the list."
Sure enough, when you finish shopping, you haven't bought the milk. Why not?
Because while you were shopping, you were working from your list.
The moral of the story is, when you work with to-do lists, make sure you put EVERYTHING on the list. If you don't, items not on the list will likely be forgotten.
Problem #2: If some items are just too big to get done.
If you have an item on your list like, "Call Mike before lunch", you can quickly make the call and strike the item from the list.
But what about if your item is, "Create full day training presentation"?
The problem with this task is that it isn't a task at all, it's a project. It may take you days to create the presentation. And you may have to spread the load over a period of two or three weeks.
In other words, that "item" is there on your to-do list every day, but never gets done.
There are two issues here.
First, you are not using your list correctly. A daily to-do list should list items that can reasonably be accomplished that day.
So instead of listing the total project, list the first step. Something like, "Collect reference material for training presentation".
What you have done here is break down the full project into doable tasks.
And today you can complete that task, check it off your list and add the next task from that project for your to-do list tomorrow.
The second issue is that when items remain on your list day after day, and never appear to get done, it's just plain depressing.
The item always seems just too big to tackle. And the longer it sits there on your list, the worse you will feel about not making any progress.
In other words, it becomes a serious drag on your momentum each day.
If you have a task like this, ask yourself why you are not completing it. Is it because you just don't want to? (Your tax return, maybe.) Or is it because it's too big – a project and not a task at all?
Either way...break the task or project into smaller steps, and then tackle them one day at a time.
Remember, daily to-do lists only work if they are complete, and if each item is doable that day.
Related learning materials:
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