I’m always on the lookout for tools that can help me be more productive. Last year, I discovered and decided to try out Todoist, a to-do list app that caught my eye.
I started incorporating Todoist in my daily routine and soon started seeing results. I’ve always found it interesting how much of an impact it makes to write down my tasks. I wanted to find out more about why that is, so I did some research. This phenomenon appears to have been the subject of several studies of late. Hint: It’s neuroscience!
Dopamine is one of the most well-known neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that send information between neurons in our brains. It’s the primary neurotransmitter involved in the brain’s rewards system and feelings of pleasure. Checking items from a to-do list releases small amounts of Dopamine that then fuel us to keep checking off more items.
That brings me to the goals I set for myself last year. Like most people, I set goals for 2019 at the start of the year. I had been using Todoist religiously and I was killing it. However, when the end of the year approached, I realized that I had only completed a quarter of what I set out to.
This didn’t make sense to me, because I had been completing tasks left and right was generally pretty busy. Nevertheless, I still had a couple of months left of the year and it was crunch time!
By some magic, during these last couple of months, I managed to pull it together and I ended up achieving about 80% of what I had planned. However, it was far from ideal and I had to take a long hard look at where it all went wrong.
How did it all go wrong?
Todoist has a system called karma, where you get points for completing tasks and streaks for reaching certain milestones for consecutive days.
I had to be honest with myself. For the majority of the year, I had been filling my time with smaller, less important tasks to get my numbers up and to chase that aforementioned dopamine high. I often postponed larger, more difficult tasks because I felt like they were slowing me down when they were precisely what I was supposed to be spending my time on.
How can I stop this from happening again?
Here are three simple steps that I plan to follow now to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Maybe you can get some inspiration from it!
- I’ve stopped doing yearly goals. My largest goals for the year are quarterly goals. Now that the timeframe for my largest goals is a bit shorter, it helps me to keep sight of them.
- I’ve learned to review and reflect on my tasks more often. Have you ever created a to-do item just to tick it off immediately? This might be avoidable sometimes, but I’ve cut down on this drastically. Each morning I look at my tasks, I postpone what cannot get done and what’s left MUST be done that day.
- I’m making sure that my overall goals are a natural result of my smaller tasks. This way, completing the smallest, atomic tasks I have planned will help me achieve my overall goals, even if I don’t even think about it.
I hope that if you find yourself in a similar situation, these steps might inspire you. Have more tips that you’d like to share? Reach out to me on Twitter. Let’s help everyone become a little bit more productive today.