According to a study from the online course platform Acuity Training, 33% use a to-do list, 24% run their day from their email inbox, and 12% schedule tasks on their calendar. The rest just deal with whatever seems most important in the moment.
We’re often nearsighted, says Lisa McCarthy, coauthor of Fast Forward: 5 Power Principles to Create the Life You Want in Just One Year. “Most human beings are focused on what they need to accomplish by Friday, versus zooming out to the future and really gaining clarity on what’s important and then investing their time and energy on that in the present,” she says.
To make better use of your time—and create a more effective to-do list—avoid these mistakes:
Feeling Time Deficient
Most people have too many things on their to-do list, and they’re not bound by time. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, especially if you’re reinforcing it with your self-talk, McCarthy says.
“Most people relate to time, as if there aren’t enough hours in the day,” she says. “Your language creates your reality, and you’ll constantly collect evidence to support it.”
You have a choice over what you say. Instead of being reactive, be intentional. For example, McCarthy suggests saying, “I have enough time. I have enough energy to invest in what’s important to me, both professionally and personally.”
When building your to-do list with this mindset, determine the most important things you want to accomplish for your job and your personal well-being. Start with the finish, and then plan your week.
Ignoring your Energy
How effective you are at executing tasks can depend on your energy level. McCarthy says a to-do list should be created with this in mind. For example, if you’re a morning person, tackle your high-energy tasks early in the day. If you get revved up in the afternoon, save important tasks for later.
“You have to know yourself,” she says. “Be reflective of what you need to do to keep your physical and mental energy at its peak. When you can get in front of it, you’ll get the most important stuff done instead of just reacting.”
This post is an excerpt of the original article published on Fast Company. Read the full featured article to learn about other mistakes you must avoid to make better use of your time—and create a more effective to-do list.