Stop Wasting Time on the Wrong Tasks: Filtering Your To-Do List
Here’s a liberating truth for your time management journey: not every task that crosses your path is worth your time.
When collecting, organizing, prioritizing, and scheduling your tasks into an effective to-do list, you can’t overlook the need to filter out any unnecessary or unhelpful tasks. The filtering aspect of task management is vital, yet often overlooked. If you don’t filter, you’ll waste time on tasks that don’t help you achieve your goals, or worse yet, hinder your progress!
High achievers spend most of their time on the tasks that matter. Each unnecessary task that isn’t removed takes away time from activities that propel your career forward and allow you to reach your potential!
Here are the 4 tasks that you can remove from your to-do list to avoid wasting time:
1. TASKS THAT COMPETE WITH YOUR PRIORITIES.
What are your ten most important values? If you’re unclear about your priorities, you’ll end up spending time on projects and activities that aren’t aligned with what matters to you most.
Believe it or not, you may have tasks on your to-do list that directly compete with your priorities. Each individual task doesn’t take up much time, so it can be easy to overlook this. However, all these small tasks add up! Over time, you’ll spend hours on tasks that aren’t aligned with your values.
Filtering Question One: “Are there any tasks that don’t align with my values?”
For example, let’s say that honesty and positivity are two of your core values. One of the tasks on your list is to attend Book Club, even though you know you’ll spend 20 minutes listening to everyone gossip and complain before any literary intricacy of Jane Eyre is discussed. “Attending book club” is one task that can be removed or replaced by “call the book club leader to have an honest conversation about the club culture.”
Dare to ruthlessly eliminate any task that competes with your values. Your time is your most valuable asset; don’t waste it on anything you don’t believe in.
2. TASKS THAT TAKE MORE THAN 20 MINUTES TO COMPLETE
If a task takes longer than 20 minutes to complete, it’s considered a Project. You can’t accomplish a Project, these need to be broken down into Micro-Actions: tasks that can be completed in 20 minutes or less. If you can’t break it down into smaller steps, your Project is not yet ready for action. It should be filtered out from your to-do list until you have a clear idea of what it requires to complete it.
Filtering Question Two: “What needs to be broken down into smaller steps?”
Learn more about the importance of defining and scheduling important tasks in this free planning class with time management expert Allyson Lewis. It includes a free downloadable template!
3. ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DELEGATED OR AUTOMATED
Are there any repeating tasks on your list that can be automated? Technology provides a myriad of automation options to take tasks off your plate.
Filtering Question Three: “Am I the person who needs to complete this task?”
If you find yourself with more work or clients than you have time, it may be time to hire a virtual assistant, a cleaner, or administrative help to free up some of your time so you can focus on the tasks only you can do.
If you share a household or work in a team, delegating a task could look like identifying any tasks on your list that would take you a lot of effort, but are low effort (or even fun!) for someone else. You could exchange tasks or simply ask for a favor.
One unexpected benefit is that this filtering step invites you to hang your Supersuit on the hook. Sometimes, delegating means admitting you can’t keep all those plates spinning by yourself. Asking for help is a sign of strength and self-awareness, not weakness.
4. TASKS THAT DON’T LEAD TO GOAL ACHIEVEMENT
Procrastination doesn’t always look like mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. Creating busywork or endlessly preparing for a project without taking action are two common forms of procrastination that often go unnoticed.
Filtering Question Four: Are there tasks on this list I don’t need to do? Is this producing forward motion or is this busywork?
If you can’t think of a significant, negative consequence of leaving a task unfinished, it’s busywork that can be filtered out.
The 7 Minute Life membership includes in-depth classes and filtering exercises to ensure you’re not just getting more done, but getting more of the right things done. A few examples of questions 7 Minute Life members ask themselves during the morning routine:
Does this task need to be completed today? Do I have enough time to finish the task today?
Is the Project this task is a part of still relevant to my goals and priorities?
Do I have the resources and skills I need to accomplish this successfully or do I need to further prepare before I take action?
What does DONE look like? How will I know when I am finished?
Does this task make me more money?
Learn more about this by getting access to the Class Library and live trainings included in the 7 Minute Life online membership.
HELPFUL TIP FOR ELIMINATING TASKS
Filtering your to-do list using these four categories of removable tasks can be challenging. When in doubt, put the task on the Unfinished Task List. Return to that list later to look at it with a fresh perspective, but don’t let the task clutter up your essential to-do list in the meantime.
Another method to help yourself with task removal is to compare worst-case scenarios. Ask yourself:
What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t do this task?
Write down your answer and immediately ask yourself the next question:
What’s the worst that could happen if I do spend time completing this task if it’s not necessary or helpful?
Compare the two answers. If you realize that the cost of accomplishing it is higher than the risk of a negative consequence when the task is left unfinished, you can safely assume the task can be removed from your to-do list.
Attempt to eliminate at least 20% of your to-do list every time you create one. This crucial editing process will help you develop a laser sharp focus on the tasks that matter most.
Your goals will thank you later.