how to be more productive

How to be more productive + RADIO interview

Many people think of lists as something that will show them how much they have to do and thus avoid them. If you’re one of those people, please allow me to challenge your beliefs. If you’re already using lists, however, read on, as there might be more that you can get out of them.

Women in Business Radio Show

Productivity tips and lists are something I spoke about in an interview with the Women in Business Radio Show. Check it out!

Listen to “Getting Back To The Basics Of Your Marketing Strategy With Eli Zheleva” on Spreaker.

Why do I need to use lists

Free your brain capacity, write things down. In this day and age, everything and everyone is demanding our attention. So, trying to remember things we need or want to do becomes harder. This sometimes results in missed deadlines, stacking up of work and inevitably unhealthy stress levels. Having everything written down, be it on paper or using a software makes tasks look simpler, easier to accomplish and manageable. This creates a feeling of being on top of things, rather than constantly playing catch up. This feeling will make you more productive and you’ll be able to get your to-dos done faster. Then you’ll have more time and energy for the things you really want to do in life.

Types of lists

    • To-do lists

To-do lists are the most popular type of lists and are those that give a bad reputation to all lists. They are the lists that people look at and dread. People associate to do lists with endless chores to be done. You’ve probably, at least once in your life, have heard someone saying “Oh, I can’t go out, I have 101 things on my to do list.” Or maybe that someone was you at one point? I’ve been guilty of this many times too. I consider myself an achiever and as if my brain couldn’t comprehend that regardless of how productive I was, there’s no way (and in fact no point) in getting all of my to dos done in a single day.

Thankfully, I have it sussed out now. The purpose of to-do those lists is not to make you feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks. Instead, to see everything that needs to be done, prioritising it and then focusing on the most important tasks.

    • Contact lists

Contact lists are something we use every day, without even realising. Everyone has a bunch of contacts saved in their phones. Let me ask you something. If you think that your memory is so powerful to remember everything else I’m suggesting putting into lists, why do you use your phone to store contacts? That’s not a very appealing idea, is it? That should proof my concept that as smart as we are and as much as we’d like to remember everything, we physically can’t. It’s a scientific fact that if we did, we would go crazy. The information will melt down (now that’s a metaphor!) our brains and they won’t be as useful anymore.

    • Wish lists

Wish lists are probably one of the most enjoyable type of lists, there you can store ideas of what you’d like to own, places you want to visit, people you want to meet. You might want one of those just to juice up the contents in the list of your lists.

    • Shopping/to buy lists

This is a self-explanatory list. Again, the fact that we tend to rely on shopping lists reiterates the fact that lists are useful and you don’t have to force yourself to remember things you soon won’t need. For example, you’ll buy potatoes once or twice a week, but that’s not such a valuable knowledge in your life that you need to store in your long term memory. Just put it down on the list and forget about it until the shopping time comes.

    • Checklists

Checklists are my favourite lists. They are what really saves my sanity. I use checklists to collate a number of subtasks that need to be completed to achieve a goal, or to prepare for an event (be it a client meeting or a holiday).

Let’s say I’m going on holiday in 2 weeks’ time. The first thing I’ll do is to create a holiday list and start putting everything I can think of that I’ll need for the holiday. The idea of starting the list 2 weeks in advance is to allow yourself and others to remind you what else you need for the holiday. Check the weather, decide what clothes you’ll need, consider if you’re likely to be going out, as this will require more and different outfits to your beachwear.

You’ll be surprised how many times during the course of those 2 weeks before the holiday, you’ll add to the list. And that’s what you want. You want to casually think of what you need and add it to the list. You don’t need to start packing 2 weeks beforehand, but having a list will make packing much easier. I bet there have been times when you’ve had to pack in a rush and then forgotten something. The frustration of getting to the airport, only to realise you’ve forgotten your your passport, or worse still, your selfie-stick! 😉

    • FPs (financial plans)

I consider simple financial plans created in a spreadsheet as lists. They contain your ins and outs, allowing you at any time of the month to assess where you’re at, so that there are no nasty surprises. Keeping a close eye on your finances can help you manage them better and re-allocate funds to things that matter more and give you greater satisfaction. The saying “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” is apt in this example.

    • Lists with things to read, watch, listen

Every so often someone recommends to me a good read or a good film and if I don’t write it down, eventually I’ll forget it. I wouldn’t have realised I’d forgotten it until the day I have some time to kill and want to take advantage of that recommendation.

    • List of goals

Ideally, that’s a list that everyone should have. To be honest, I’ve only just finished mine yesterday, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have a list of goals yet. This list shouldn’t be longer than 3-4 items. The reason for this is that if you have more than that, you are likely to lose focus of where you’re going. Some productivity gurus suggest that the list actually consists of one single items, as that way you’ll have clarity about what you want in life and that will make it easier to pursue.

Here’s my list of goals for the next 12 months:

      1. Build my personal brand of a motivational and inspirational speaker;
      2. Manage my time better, so I have more time for the things that matter to me, and
      3. Remove financial burdens – I have a loan I want to get rid of.

As you can see, it’s not a rocket science, they are not complex goals in their own rights. Now I have them, every day I’m looking at what I can do to get closer to achieving them.

“Without a goal, you can’t score.” – Casey Neistat

    • Ideas list

My head is always buzzing with ideas. I’d like to think that all of them are good, but alas. Keeping an ideas list allows you to harness your creativity. At a later stage, when you’re ready for it, you can assess if the project is still worth your time and efforts. Often when I think about an idea more and more I realise it was good at the time, but it’s not really something I should be focusing on.

How to manage your lists

There are three main methods of managing your lists. One of them is the traditional pen and paper approach. The other one is using a digital tool to help you with that and the third one is a hybrid between the two. I started with pen and paper as I found it extremely satisfying to physically cross a task off my list. Over time I found myself having multiple pieces of paper, all part of the same list. This meant that I had to then transfer and de-duplicate the lists at least once a week. Otherwise, I was just carrying an endless pile of papers. The other challenge appeared when I started to come up with ideas or things to put in the lists when I was on the road. Again, I had to make sure I consolidated all lists, as otherwise, I’ve done the wise thing to write something down, so I don’t forget it, but then have misplaced the actual list.

This made me realise I needed something that I can carry with me and can sync with my computer. And I found Toodledo. Toodledo is a simple and in its simplicity a brilliant tool for list management. It has capabilities beyond that, which I haven’t used as much. What I love about Toodledo is the fact that you can create as many lists as you want, you can add deadlines to them, which will help you to keep on track. Above all that, there’s an option for estimated time a task would take. This is especially useful for to-do lists. Then you can set yourself deadlines for tasks and add how long you think those tasks will realistically take. The tool makes it easy to see if you’re adding too many tasks each day and setting yourself to fail.

In a brief chat with Toodledo’s creator Jake Olefsky, he shared the following. “Toodledo started as a private tool for myself, because I couldn’t find anything else that worked the way I wanted it. After about a year of using it, I realized that it was a good enough tool that other people may find it useful as well. Thus, Toodledo was born.”

If you have the technical skills, the time and the desire, by all means try creating something of your own. As I don’t have either of those, I’m just enjoying the benefits of using an already excellent product and encourage you to at least give it a go, it’s free.

Share your experience

Are you ready to introduce lists into your life and manage your sanity, rather than going crazy trying to remember everything? Start with as many or as few lists as you wish. I’d love to hear how you’re getting on, so get in touch!

About Eli Zheleva

I am a marketer with a passion for life. I believe that everyone can live a happier and more fulfilled life and am on a mission to help people achieve that. I'm on the road to be a motivational speaker and a life coach. I'm also in the process of writing a book.