Turn Your To-do List Into Data to Maximise Your Productivity

Turn Your To-do List Into Data to Maximise Your Productivity

You know it’s important to prioritize your to-do list, and may have tried various methods to do so, from the Eisenhower Matrix (to determine how timely and urgent each task is), to the Pareto principle (to decide how to allocate your time to maximize your results). The problem is that determining what’s actually a priority can be an abstract problem. Some people work best when dealing with cold, hard numbers—and there’s a way to take a more quantitative approach to prioritizing your to-dos.

Why prioritize your to-do list?

The Pareto principle, mentioned above, suggests that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your work, so you have to be picky about what you focus on. Plus, there’s only so much you can do in a day, so the best to-do list for you may be a narrow one—say, with room for one major activity, three medium-sized ones, and five little ones (known as a 1-3-5 list). If you try to do too much, your productivity can take a hit. (That’s Illich’s Law, baby.)

To avoid doing too much or working on the wrong things, you need a strategy, and to form a strategy, you need to do some planning. The Eisenhower matrix can be useful as you figure out which tasks have looming deadlines, but it’s a subjective tool. Assigning numbers to your tasks can make it all feel a more data-driven.

How to turn your to-do list into data

I encountered this tip in a blog post from consultant and strategist Daniel Coulton Shaw, who breaks down how to number your tasks so they align with the Pareto principle.

First, write down everything you need to get done in the foreseeable future, as you would in the early stages of making a 1-3-5 list. Next, assign each task two numbers, both of which will be between 1 and 10. The first number is for the effort required, and the second is for the project’s impact.

For example, answering all your emails may get a 3 for effort, but could yield results in the 7 territory. Finishing a report on a meeting could be a 6 in effort, but a 2 in results. Picking up your meds at the pharmacy could be a 2 in effort, or a 7, depending how hard it is to get there, but a 4 in results, or even a 10, depending on how important the prescription is.

This part is subjective too, to a degree, but even thinking about your tasks in terms of “effort” and “results” will help you grasp their seriousness—and we’re not done yet. Next, divide each task’s “results” number by its “effort” number. So, if answering emails is a 7 on the results scale and a 3 in effort, you’re looking at a 2.33 overall score. Once all your tasks have been assigned a score, you can rank them in number order and aim to tackle them in that order, unless something extra timely comes along. By doing this, you’ll knock out the tasks that are important but low effort—which should be that 20% of work that comprises 80% of your results.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


Leave a Reply