Here on my channel I talk a lot about
how to hack your productivity to get more done but there are actually a lot
of very common productivity tips that are thrown around all the time that
actually do not work so I wanted to start a little series here on my channel
all about those productivity hacks that don’t work so that I can explain to you
why they don’t work and how you can actually hack the productivity tips to
actually make them more effective hello my Charmed Ones and welcome back to my
channel for another video and if this is your first time with me I’d like to say
it welcome my name is Alexis but I’m also known as miss trenchcoat all across
the internet I’m an online entrepreneur who designs and sells productivity tools
strategies and skills to help you manifest success with less stress so if
that sounds interesting to you I’ll leave some links down below in the
description box where you can check out more of my work online and feel free to
download some of my latest free productivity tools over at the charmed
shop comm ok so let’s jump into this first installment of this productivity
hacks that don’t work series and for this first installment I actually have a
really big one so the first productivity hack that does not work is making a
to-do list I know I know you’re probably like cringe what Alexis you’ve even
talked about to-do lists in the past yes absolutely I have and I know that for a
long time it is seemed like they are the it way to get more done right like it
kind of makes sense like you have things to do make a list of the things you have
to do and then tackle the list but the truth of the matter is that science has
kind of really shown through testing why making a list is very popular and why
sometimes it actually can become a little bit dangerous to our productivity
to just be working off of a to-do list to get things done so let me first
explain to you the testing that has been done on to-do lists so essentially when
you make a to-do list it has been scientifically shown that just the act
of writing down your tasks on the to-do list
significantly reduces your stress and it makes you feel more
organized now that feeling of being organized and having your you know ish
under control that is completely independent of
whether or not you actually get anything on the list done so you can make a whole
to-do list sit there and feel accomplished and feel more organized and
literally walk off from your desk and never touch an item on that list and
you’re gonna feel like you’re more productive even though in reality you’re
not actually getting anything done so that’s the first reason why to-do lists
can be really tricky and one of the reasons why I think a lot of people talk
about to-do lists and why I’ve even talked about to-do lists in the past as
being like a great way to get yourself organized to be productive but so the
issue is that they make us feel good even if we don’t execute on them and we
all know that the execution is the most important part about judging whether or
not we’re being productive now the second reason why to-do lists can be
problematic is because let’s say you sit down and you make that to-do list of
heaven knows how many items you most likely do not have time to actually
complete all of the items in one day and you most likely have not ranked or
prioritized those items with any sort of prioritization method in order to create
a viable action plan so what you may find happens when you make it to-do list
is that number one just having all of the tasks is written willy-nilly on one
page creates a sense of overwhelm right and even if you tackle that list with
the best intentions unless you’ve put some sort of
prioritization method in place for them you may be working on things out of
order or working on things that are not as high priority as others because
you’re just operating off of one single list so whatever you do get done may not
even be the best or most practical use of your time which is why just writing a
list of things to do and acting off of that isn’t always the smartest for your
productivity now my third and final point on why a to-do list is not a very
effective productivity method is because many times we put instead of putting
tasks on our to-do list so we actually put projects on our to-do list and this
is actually a whole video that I do the other week called I think the number
one mistake you’re making on your to-do list and it’s all about the fact that
oftentimes on our to-do list we put multi-step projects on a to-do list as
though they’re an individual task for action and then we actually find it hard
to get that task done or we get stuck on that task or were even unsure how to
move forward on that because there are so many things that go into completing
that item that we get overwhelmed and maybe even avoid doing it so I highly
recommend going to watch that video I’ll leave it linked down below in the
description box if you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend checking it out
but that is just another reason why making a to-do list can actually be
slowing down your productivity instead of helping you to achieve more so I know
what you’re thinking Alexis I know you keep lists of to do’s in your planner
and I do so now I want to share with you a few tips and strategies for how you
can use the concept of a to-do list effectively and efficiently so it is
actually helping to boost your productivity similar to the way that I
use them the thing here that we have to keep in mind is the idea of using a
to-do list in terms of sitting down writing down everything you need to get
done and just acting off of that list is not taking any time to properly action
plan so I’m gonna share some strategies now for how we can actually take the
idea of a to-do list and make it better and more productive my first suggestion
is not to actually start with a to-do list but instead to start with a brain
dump so a brain dump is the process of writing down all of the information
tasks events ideas inspiration and everything else that we are holding on
to in our brain I think for many people their to-do lists actually our brain
dumps and they’re actually just trying to operate off of a brain dump which can
be a very problematic situation but the brain dump really is the first step or
the rough draft in creating the plan where you are just listing everything
out and getting everything out on the paper so that you are relieving your
mind of having to hold on or to remember tasks that you might potentially forget
now tip number two is that once you’ve actually done that brain
organizing the items into a prioritization matrix is very important
so I love and recommend using the matrix that was designed by Stephen Covey in
his seven Habits of Highly Effective People book where you can create for
simple quadrants in a layout and each of the quadrants are listed as either
important not important urgent or not urgent then you can take
each item that’s actually on that brain dump list and then apply it to the
quadrant prioritization matrix by determining if something is important
and urgent important or not urgent not important and urgent and not important
and not urgent so once you have your tasks broken up into the appropriate
quadrant you basically have a ready-made action plan to go and the work off of
the important and urgent items will go on a new version of your to-do list for
the month be important but not urgent items can be scheduled into project
plans or placed into a future master monthly task list to get them done at
another time the not important but urgent items can either be delegated to
others or if you don’t have other people to delegate to consider either
communicating to the source of the item to push back on it or consider whether
or not as a last resort you really need to go ahead and move it on to your to-do
list for immediate actions if you’re the only one who can get it done finally not
urgent and not important items can be either deleted off of your task list
entirely or put on some sort of list for the future write something for you to
refer back on in the future like a Sunday maybe list if that’s what you
want to do with the items because sometimes things do change and there are
better or more appropriate times sometimes an item is not urgent or not
important right now but a few months down the line it might
be and you don’t want to forget about that item so creating a some day maybe
list or a future task list is just a great way to keep those items organized
so you don’t forget about them so I hope that you can see that by using this a
four quadrant system it actually helps you to begin to prioritize the item
on that brain dump so that you can effectively act on them efficiently now
the third and final tip I have for you for improving your to-do list is to
organize your tasks into project plans as much as possible so projects aren’t
multi-step processes to reach a desired objective so often projects will consist
of many different tasks that cover a variety of contexts or categories of
actions so when your work falls into this description creating a project plan
will give you additional organization and productivity benefits by helping you
to get clear on the objective due date resources and action steps that you need
to take for its completion once you have a project plan created you can take the
individual tasks and move them on to your master monthly task list so you get
them done in that month that they belong to and therefore your items will then be
organized and prioritized on a list of actual items that are important moving
forward now if you have been making to-do lists in the past and have gotten
some great inspiration from this video but would like some tools to help you
actually start executing on this information I have some great options
for you you can get my brain dump and organization matrix shown in this video
as part of my charmed life master planner or if you already have a planner
system that you’re using that brain dub section is available as part of my
brilliant ideas bundle over on my shop I will leave all of the options for that
down below of course if you’re using the term lathe master planner you know that
you already have a whole project planning section so you can purchase the
master planner if you don’t have one and of course I also have a separate project
planning bundle up on my shop in case you need to purchase inserts to
supplement your current planner system so make sure to check the description
box for all the different options you have because it’s really great to have
the right tools to help you get organized and productive when you are
trying to effectively make a to-do list now I want to hear from you do you have
any tips for how you make your to-do-list more effective or are you one
of the many people out there who makes a list and finds it hard to actually go
ahead and execute on it I would love to hear about it down in the comments if
you found this video helpful please make sure to give it a thumbs up and feel
free to share it with someone you think is planning wrong with a to-do list
right sharing is caring and you want to make sure that we spread this message
far and wide because friends don’t let friends make to-do lists blindly without
the proper strategies in place so make sure to share the video with anyone you
think would find it helpful if you would like more of the behind-the-scenes of my
productivity life and business make sure you are following me on instagram at
miss trenchcoat and if you’re not yet subscribed to my channel what are you
waiting for hit that subscribe button for more awesome videos by me and until
next time bye bye



  • The Gold Project says:

    I live by a daily to do list, but you definitely have to make them work for you. I just finished a blog post over this same topic. Great video, Alexis. Let's all get the new year started off right and make daily to do lists work for us. Big hugs from Arkansas.

  • OMG ? projects on my To-Do list is the reason why I was de-railing myself. I just realized the importance of not listing five projects on my daily task, that time wise, take a day to complete. I wasn’t listing the 20 steps it takes to complete One project and I was not really thinking it through. My list was pretending to work because I’m not doing it right ❤️??❤️Thank you??❤️☕️?

  • This is so timely for me! I’m currently reading 7 habits! Also I recently watched a video that was explaining that when we make a to-do list and don’t get it done it’s actually training our brain that the list results in NO action. The simplified science is neurons that fire together stay together and neurons that fire apart stay apart. So not having a plan to actually accomplish a task is setting us up for more failure in the future! It’s so interesting to me!!

  • I saw that title and was like “Whaaaa?!” ? But then I hear the RIGHT way you describe is exactly what I do. One tip: add TIMEFRAMES with cushions to your tasks. If you think it’ll take 15 min, write down 20-25 min. This not only helps you “time block” (something I’m a huge advocate of) but it helps you plan for the unexpected by having wiggle room in your schedule. And if you have an extra 30 min open up – like a cancelled appt – you know exactly what you can squeeze into that timeframe at a glance. It also helps you not feel overwhelmed when you have a LONG list but you can see they are all quick tasks.

  • Ana Telma Fotografia says:

    What if I can’t categorize the items by urgency and importance? To me, everything ends up being urgent and important ?

  • Sweett And Simple says:

    Sometimes my brain dump session can take hours. Is that normal? Plus, my planning takes up all day. Am I wasting too much time?

  • Love this! I have actually been using this strategy of brain dumping and prioritizing before making my to-do for a good while now (minus using the steven covey prioritization method) but have not been able to organize what I was doing into words to explain. Thank you for this video, very clear and concise and helpful. I will be using that steveb covey method in the future!

  • gotta admit I get satisfaction marking off to do list lines… I can see where your method could be much more productive though. Thanks for sharing.

  • All Things Alicia says:

    That makes so much sense. I totally enjoy making the to-lists and goals sheets and planning, etc…and often don't execute. I've just not found a way to consistently execute.

  • I try to put most of my 'to dos' into my daily agenda particularly the repetitive ones. For 'odd' to dos I have and dedicated a time to do one. 10am and have that satisfying feeling of crossing it out.

  • Alexis I found this to be a problem for 3 years ago after I had my stroke. I was in lots of different therapies but speech therapy was very helpful to me. I know everyone thinks how could speech therapy help. The kind of stroke I had severely effected the executive function of my brain aka planning for one thing. So my speech therapists (I had 2) worked with me 3 times per week to learn how to plan my day…each day. I'm not just talking about a to do list but hour by hour. It included self care, meds, simple tasks, rest, exercise…literally everything. What I did learn is that for me a to do list in less affective than a more structured hour by hour plan. This is of course not something that will affect everyone at all. I used to be able to plan with a monthly layout only. I went from that to week on 2 pages and then to day on 1 page (or 2). I also have to plan like you were saying, brain dump, desperate, prioritize, and honestly my best plan is hourly. Thank you for all your great tips!

  • Kimberly Reynolds says:

    Great video! I love using Stephen covey’s matrix, however, I must disagree that “important and not urgent” tasks should be put off until another time. Maybe for someone like you who doesn’t struggle with procrastination. But, for those of us who do, quadrant 2 are arguably where our dreams go to die. Important things that will move our lives forward are not prioritized, and then we get in an endless loop of doing quadrant 3 things because they make us feel busy, tackling q1 when a big scary deadline is hanging over us, and doing q4 as a way to escape the scariness of q2.

  • There's a technique I recently learned about. It's still basically a to-do list, but you divide it into three columns. Now – 0-3 months; Next – 3-12 months; and Later – 12 months and more. Dividing it up this way, I can see there's much more than I can do and realistically sort what I know I can do now as opposed to what's basically a wish-list item that can be put in the "Later" list or even left off entirely.

  • Bx Strawberries says:

    One thing that helps me when writing my to-do's in my weekly plan is to not be completely tied to doing the tasks on the day I write them in my planner. I know this means I should have these on a monthly to-do list rather than in my week plans; however, once I stopped caring about what days I'm doing things & focusing on getting the things done by the week's end, I felt less pressure/stress. I was also able to choose the tasks that felt most appropriate to my energy levels on each day rather than being constricted to what I thought my energy levels would be on Sundays/Saturdays when I planned.

  • I had no idea you had these bundles in the shop! I'm definitely going to check these out!!! I suck at execution…so many reasons, so little desire to type them all out. What has been working for me is keeping a 5-7 page master list of all the things that need to be done during the month. I keep it right in the middle of my monthly spread so there is no avoiding it. 😉 Thanks for another great vid! I love listening to you, there is always some new tip or trick I hadn't thought of that I can implement. 🙂

  • ConstantCompanion says:

    Well? Probably my biggest thing would be to never have more than three or four things on the to-do list. I usually shoot for 3. I can always add later if there's time or inclination, but I try to stick to just the three. It kind of jump-starts my day and I add on later. I find that if I have too many in The To Do List I don't do anything.

  • I am a SAHM and have a "done" list I update as the day progresses. I did a brain dump 3 years ago and put each item on a 3 hole piece of notebook paper . I did the Urgent/Important priority for each page and categorized them by major area (finances, food, living room, bed room, bathroom, job, each member of household, health appts, etc.). I didn't get many done until I went back and added my interest level in accomplishing the task. That, and as new information comes in (I hope to change residence by next August) my priority will change and my enthusiasm adjusts. I like the idea of adding "amount of time needed" as someone suggested. I also will start reviewing my list on a weekly basis to increase chances of completing my tasks/projects. Thanks for making these videos, your presentation style is very engaging.

  • I make a list after list to keep up with incoming tasks. However, I'm so busy maintaining list after list that I never really consolidate into my overall project or plan. It feels like a hamster wheel: I look busy but go nowhere. I started seeing email as something to be processed following the GTD style of review. This just creates an @action list….a new list. What is funny is I know this but feel like it is a vicious cycle that I don't know how to stop.

    Edit: I do know how to stop but couldn't find the time from being so "productive." In writing this, I see that I must make the time. ❤

  • It would be helpful if you could demonstrate using the project form for everyday reoccurring items. for example bill payment, medical appointments, chores etc

  • I’ll definitely have to look at trying the quadrant process, I been ranking my to do lists 1A, 2A, 1B etc A being the important, have to get done. B being would like to get done, but can move if I need to. Thanks Alexis!

  • The start of the vid made think of when I heard ppl watching other ppl work-out on tv makes your body feel like you have too.
    Which has some eerie truth to it, when I binged Biggest looser I felt afterwards like I’d been healthy tooxP

  • I'm a bit confused on how something can be urgent and not important. Do you have an example of what type of things you would list in that box?

  • David Greensmith says:

    When it comes to prioritising the To Do make sure the important urgent sub list is small. It's easy to over estimate how much you can get done in a day and then find that you've only ticked off one or two items. This can be demotivating as it feels like you haven't made as much progress as you wanted. Be focused on the tasks, but be realistic about your bandwidth.

  • Omg as soon as you said "we put projects on the to do list instead of tasks" I was over here like "yes! Yes!" I can't tell you how many times I've said "I need to get xyz done this week" and then I'm like "well let's write down the steps." and I end up writing down like 29349230 steps or things to do. ?

  • That's awesome advice. I love the tip you gave of breaking things down in 4 different quadrants. That'll definitely make you more effective.

    When I have emails do send I do them while waiting in the waiting room at the doctors office. That's a great way to be more productive. ?

  • Add me to the wagon train of OMG! DUH… for "we put projects on the to do list instead of tasks." I knew something in that range was off in my planning and couldn't pinpoint it and this was it. My planner has undergone a major transformation since the first watching of this video. I return once a week. THANK YOU!

  • Thank you, Alexis!!! This has been a HUGE help!!! I'm DEFINITELY guilty of just making brain-dump to-do lists! Now that I'm aware of this, I can implement your strategy! THANK YOU!!!!

  • I love the brain dump section for my planner. One thing that I use when creating task list are colors. Things that need to be focused on sooner I put those is eye grabbing colors anything else is probably a blah color. This helps me stay focused.

  • When I clean I breakdown all that needs to be done. Ex: Vacuum dog hair, dust, vacuum house, clean bathrooms wash curtains, wash windows & sills, sort laundry, wash clothes, collect empty hangers. So when my husband or grandkids ask what they can do to help, it's easy to assign a task too.

  • I noticed that to-do lists do not work for me. The more I think about it, the more I understand why. It’s so sad, that one thing I thought is the most productive thing to do actually killed productivity DEAD.

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