I've been talking a lot about productivity lately and how to maintain it, and in that vein I'd like to discuss another tip for staying productive. In my last post, about getting moving by doing something small, I mentioned that it takes finding ways to "trick" myself into being productive. I feel like if I didn't make myself be productive, I'd probably sit here reading my book all day. (Yes, my Kindle is open next to me right now.) So it takes a certain amount of knowing how to trick myself in order to get anything done.
I'm always trying to find new ways to motivate myself, and I'm a big list-maker, so a year or two ago I read a book on how to write to-do lists that work. One of the big takeaways from the book was that to-do lists work best when you write them in a way that reflects your goals. The author recommended writing everything on your to-do list as a sentence that includes your goal at the end, which seems silly to me, but the message was valid: We are more likely to follow through when the items on our to-do list are meaningful to our larger goals.
For instance, I might have it on my to-do list that I'm going to update my website today, but that alone doesn't mean it's going to get done. But if I reframe that to-do list item in terms of my goal - in this case, growing my business, which I want very much - I'm likely to feel more motivated to do it.
It works for client work too, and not just personal goals. For instance, if I want to write an article for a client today, I'm more likely to do it if I'm thinking of both the benefits of doing it and the consequences of not doing it: I want to get paid sooner, have more time for other things later, and continue to grow my business, versus having to make excuses to my client or having to shuffle my bills in order to make up for the delay in pay.
Your goals don't have to be epic life goals, they just have to reframe how you're thinking about that task. For instance, I want to clean my kitchen so that I can cook dinner and not feel like a slob. They're not epic life goals, but they do the job of reminding me why I wanted to do that today.
Speaking of which, I'd better get going... I have some things to do. But in the meantime, let me know in the comments: How do you make your to-do list meaningful and motivating?