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