How to schedule items on your to-do list

This is a guest article by Jeff Davidson

The research is in, and Homo sapiens are definitely more adept at tackling big challenges earlier in the day than later. Peak energy and alertness for most people is at 8 a.m. Also, fewer interruptions are likely earlier in the day.

This is not to say you can’t be effective handling large tasks later in the day, and sometimes you have no choice but to do so. The long-term odds of success, however, are with you when you make a habit of handling the day’s biggest challenge as early as you can, perhaps as the very first thing.

After composing a to-do list, regardless of what order you listed the items, identify the vital challenge you face for the day. Circle that item or draw an arrow from it up to the top of the page, to indicate that is the task you will tackle first. Then, clear away any minor hurdles that would impede your ability to start on that task.

Do you need to rearrange your workspace? OK, go ahead and do so, not to stall, but because you will literally be making logistical changes to your workspace that aid in the way you perform best.

Do you need to alert others that you do not wish to be distracted? OK, go ahead and do so, because clear stretches give you your best chance of being productive, especially when you are tackling a project that is new, requires highly creative thinking or is unfamiliar to you.

Each distraction, however fleeting, may turn into a full-fledged interruption. Interruptions in and of themselves are not so bad, on average lasting only three minutes. A bigger problem, however, is that a typical interruption leads to other activities that can last 12 to 14 minutes. So, any interruption could pull you from the task for up to 16 minutes.

You’re more prone to be distracted as the day goes on. So, you have a compelling reason to tackle the biggest and most challenging tasks as early as you can get to them. Plus, as you’ve experienced many times before, once you finish something that at first may have seemed intimidating, the whole day tends to go better.

Early, major victories have a way of impacting the rest of the day. Freed from the psychological baggage of handling the task, as well as the mental and physical effort necessary to do so, you then almost automatically consider “What other great things can I accomplish today?”

Jeff Davidson, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” has written 59 mainstream books, is an authority on time management, and is an electrifying professional speaker. He is the author of Breathing Space and Simpler Living. He believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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One Response to How to schedule items on your to-do list

  1. Interesting post. Thanks for writing it.

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