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01 Jun

What is the verb?

Datum: 2016-06-01 15:05

When it comes to hav­ing good struc­ture it is cru­cial that we are con­crete, detailed and pre­cise — espe­cial­ly when we are for­mu­lat­ing what we have to do which will not be done right now. It does not mat­ter what dig­i­tal to-do-list-tool abun­dant in func­tions and fea­tures we are using if we use it to remem­ber to-do-tasks along the lines of Bud­get”, The com­pi­la­tion”, The event”, The course”, Ger­many”, and so on.

When we are being this brief in our word­ing and write as if writ­ing a telegram, it is real­ly only just as we are writ­ing the task down that it is com­plete­ly obvi­ous to us what we need to do. But when we look through the list two weeks lat­er vir­tu­al­ly any­thing could be the next step when it comes to doing the task we chose to phrase The com­pi­la­tion”, and per­haps what comes to mind now is not at all what we had in mind when writ­ing this task down in the first place.

Besides, if you do some­thing regard­ing the task The com­pi­la­tion” today but there is more work to be done, are you then allowed” to check the task off your list?

A pow­er­ful con­trol question
I under­stand that it is tempt­ing to just quick­ly scrib­ble down a key­word in this way in order to as quick­ly as pos­si­ble emp­ty your mind” of every­thing we keep try­ing to remem­ber that we have to do. This is of course OK, but when you have got­ten it all down on paper, go through the list again and ask yourself:

What is the verb?”

You see, it is the verb that defines and spec­i­fies what you are going to do through being the pred­i­cate in the sen­tence. A to-do-task with­out a verb is like hav­ing a to-task. To what?”, you might ask yourself.

A verb in every task
Judg­ing from what I see when meet­ing my mentees, to-do-tasks with­out verbs are usually:

  • unclear and ambigu­ous since they only state what the task con­cerns, but not what is to be done

  • too exten­sive, since sev­er­al small­er steps or even projects usu­al­ly are con­cealed behind that all-com­pre­hen­sive key­word we used to describe the task, which you can­not check off the list since you can­not do the task in one go

The result is that the tasks get post­poned and we do not do them until at the very last minute when we are com­plete­ly stressed out about them.

There­fore, make sure that every to-do-task you write down con­tains a verb.

Do this

  1. Skim through your to-do-list and notice any to-do-tasks which are so brief in their word­ing that they lack a verb.

  2. If you find any such task, rephrase it. If you dis­cov­er that the task actu­al­ly con­sist­ed of sev­er­al tasks (and there­by requir­ing sev­er­al verbs, such as call”, find out”, write down”, send”, com­pile”, report”) then divide it into as many actu­al to-do-tasks as you need to. The impor­tant thing is that you should be able to check a to-do-task off your list after just doing one thing.

  3. Are you uncer­tain of what actu­al­ly needs to be done and are there­fore unable to deter­mine what verb you should use? Ask your­self what the first step to get­ting the infor­ma­tion you need to deter­mine what needs to be done, could be. Let this first step become the to-do-task you now add to your list. Per­haps you need to ask some­one some­thing or find some­thing out.

  4. Had you already includ­ed verbs in all your tasks? Well done. Then you will nav­i­gate around this struc­tur­al pit-fall with­out any difficulties.

Phrase it clear­ly and get faster results
If you make sure to always include a verb in every to-do-task you for­mu­late, then your tasks will become much more clear and easy to per­form than they oth­er­wise would. You will be able to make deci­sions regard­ing what the right thing to do right now is much eas­i­er dur­ing your intense work­day, and you will not pro­cras­ti­nate as many tasks as you oth­er­wise risk doing. This one word, the verb, sim­ply does wonders.

What is your trick?
How do you write down what you need to get on paper as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, but also for­mu­late the task you jot down as specif­i­cal­ly as pos­si­ble? Dis­cuss in a com­ment below.