As a chronic list maker, I make packing lists for vacations, grocery lists with a nifty app that categorizes food items and syncs with my computer so I can add limes to the list from anywhere (this makes me smile just thinking about it), and of course, I make to do lists for my weekly and daily activities.

I used to tell myself things like “I’m not doing anything else today until I get ‘this’ done.”  Well sometimes that’s easier said than done with ringing phones, social media alerts, and an endless supply of emails magically appearing in the inbox.  Those were only a few of the external disturbances.  The internal ones are nearly as distracting.  I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it difficult to sit in front of my laptop doing activities that are less than enjoyable for hours on end.  I’ll suddenly need another glass of water or my leg will go to sleep, and I’ll need to get up and stretch.  Is this sounding remotely familiar?

Rather than struggle through the distractions, let’s plan for them.  Let’s fancy up the to do list with some time boxes.

The To Do List:

Step 1:  Start Big.  Write down everything that you need to get done this week.

Step 2Narrow the focus.  Prioritize the weekly list into what needs to get done first and create your Day 1 to do list.  Write them out on a separate list.

Step 3:  Prioritize.  Identify the top 2-3 priorities for the day. I usually strive for three but if they are labor intensive or require a lot of creativity, I’ll limit it to two.   Creativity isn’t something that I can personally turn on and off.  It sometimes takes me awhile to get into that creative space.  However, with impending deadlines I can’t always wait for an inspiring moment but I need to be realistic about my capabilities.

Sprinkle in a couple of quick turn-around items so that you can still remain productive when you need a break from the big action items. Crossing off items also gives a sense of accomplishment and will help keep the momentum of productivity.

Now that you have your list constructed.  Let’s focus on how to tackle the list.

Time Box the Priorities:

Time boxing is simply identifying a specific amount of time to perform each task.  It will help to create laser focus around tasks and will also allow you to create time constraints around items that can easily become time sucks throughout the day, like email or social media.

Step 1: Set times.  Run through your top priorities first and set times for each activity.  If your number one priority is going to take three hours to complete, put a three in a box beside it.   Keep going down your list until you’ve filled about seven hours worth of work.  I say seven and not eight because something will inevitably throw a monkey wrench in your day.  Whether good or bad, it’s best not to overcommit and set realistic time boxes.

Step 2: Schedule Your Time Boxes.  If you want to get uber organized, you can take it a step further and put your time boxes into an hourly breakout for the entire day.  It will keep your day on track and will help you to more easily identify when you’re losing momentum and getting behind schedule.

It’s important to know what your most productive time of the day is.  You’ll want to schedule your top priority during that time.

Ammie’s Assignment:  Try creating a schedule full of time boxes for one week.  Yes, a whole week!  After you survive the week, come back and leave a comment to let us know how you did and if you increased your through-put.