Change Your to-Do List to an Interruption List to Do More
To-do lists keep track of the tasks we have to complete, but they never provide real motivation. A little tweak to your performance method can fix this problem pretty quickly. All you have to do is start keeping an “interruption list” instead, and you will find yourself striving to complete your tasks.
What is an interrupt list?
To-do lists, to-do lists, or whatever you call them, they all seem to me to be one: overwhelming. I throw things in there that I don’t want to forget, and no matter how much time I spend (or spend?) Organizing these lists, they just look like an overwhelming bunch of work. Sometimes I can live with this burden and deal with top priorities easily. On other days – mostly on bad days – I find it hard to see the end of the work. After all, to-do lists never end. They go on forever until you die, and they don’t care about giving you a break. I thought, what if the lists really take care of the breaks?
Breaks are good. You need them to avoid burnout and keep your sanity . Taking breaks can also turn into lengthy procrastination sessions, and if you don’t handle them, you will spend a lot of time fooling around that you should have spent doing something. If functional breaks can help and dysfunctional breaks hurt, you should probably deal with them, right? Tasks are forgotten or out of control when not managed, so if you have a to-do list, you should also have a break list.
Here’s a quick definition of a break list: a set of scheduled breaks with scheduled times that you can take anytime you need them. Then check them off when you’re done. You can keep your break list next to your to-do list so you never forget, and you always have a planned, functional break ready to go when you need it. In this post, we’ll explain why it can help you perform better and stay motivated, and we’ll show you how to customize them.
Why do I need another list to tell me what to do?
I know what you’re thinking: another to-do list to go with my to-do list? Why bother? Because lists are cool and fun! Even if you don’t think you agree, there are other benefits to keeping a break list next to your to-do list.
A breakdown in awareness leads to motivation . Remember the guilt of your old friend? Guilt is that funny feeling when you’re doing something wrong or not doing enough. Instead of letting a friend in need eat away at your well-being, you can use them as a motivation tool. Break lists let you know how many breaks you have taken and how long they have been. If you go through your list of breaks when you are lacking in motivation and you find that you have done nothing to relax, he will tell you that you can relax for a minute. If you have taken several breaks, you will see that you need to buckle up. Of course, you can search your memory for the same type of awareness, but this is not nearly as important as looking at the data right in front of you. The break list gives you a bird’s eye view of your activity so you can make the right choices about the next step when you’re unsure.
Scheduled breaks increase efficiency . When you decide to temporarily stop working to check out Facebook, watch a YouTube clip, or play a little game, you have no end goal. However, if you are planning your breaks, you can choose specific activities that will last approximately as long as you can save. Maybe you’re planning a break to play one level of your favorite game or respond to 10 Facebook notifications. If you like these things, you can still do them, but you will have an end and you will go back to work.
Two competing lists subtly simplify task management . With your to-do list, you mark tasks as they are completed. It’s gratifying, but it’s not really a game. When you take breaks, you can play a game during one of them, but that is not a game either. However, if you have both a to-do list and a gap list side by side, the competition starts instantly. Will your work win or procrastination? Lists are like scorecards for opposing teams, and the top prize is your productivity. Count the checkmarks on each side at the end of the day and see if you have a positive attitude towards work. You should not use this idea to avoid breaks, but as a motivational tool to keep the number of tasks completed at a decent level higher than the number of breaks.
Taking regular breaks helps you avoid burnout . You may not be putting aside a lot of time, but you are probably working too hard. You may have experienced burnout horrors as a result. When we work hard, sometimes we need reminders of even the simplest things , like food. It’s the same with interruptions. If you plan for them, you are more likely to take advantage of them. You don’t know how to take time off from work anymore, so don’t exacerbate the problem by avoiding interruptions.
How do I create an interrupt list?
Task lists can seem cumbersome and work-like, but that’s because they work . Break lists are fun things that you enjoy making them fun to compose. All you have to do is figure out the following:
- How long can I take a break? Most of us can set aside 15 minutes for a break no matter where we work, so I would suggest making all breaks at least as long if that doesn’t work for you. Maybe you have a break of 15, 30, or a full hour. Find out how long your breaks may be in your specific work environment and remember the length of time.
- What do I like to do during the break? You probably enjoy reading, watching TV / videos, listening to podcasts ( like mine !), Playing video games, exercising, dancing, kissing in the closet with a colleague, or any other enjoyable thing. Determine what you want to do, and then break these activities up into chunks according to the time you have. If you have 15 minutes, that’s enough to read a chapter of a book, play a video game, or watch a couple of YouTube videos. If you have half an hour, you can do one of these things longer, work out quickly, or watch a sitcom. With a full hour at your disposal, you can join a podcast, work out fully, or do whatever. Pick the things you like, sort them by estimated time, and then you have a variety of options for your break list.
Once you know what you want to do during breaks and how long it will take, you can put together a general list. I highly recommend that you do not limit your breaks to a specific amount of time whenever possible. The countdown can make it much shorter and less intense. That’s why I suggest sorting your activities in advance by time and just doing them as many times as necessary. You may spend more or less time than you expect, but as long as you get close to the amount of time you were going to spend, you will be fine.
Every day that you plan for what you want to achieve, select items from both the to-do list and the break list. Write them down on separate sheets of paper (or digitally if you like), mark down whatever you want to prioritize, and just use them throughout the day. When you do a task or take a break, just mark it. At the end of the day, you can compare both lists to see what you’ve accomplished and how much you’ve allowed yourself to relax and rejuvenate.
Are there any helpful tools I should know about?
Paper and pen are great for both to-do lists and breaks. You can also use most to-do list apps like Wunderlist to create daily tasks and break lists. But, if you prefer a more specialized and precise route that I have laid out and found something for myself, you can use it in your quest with a list of breaks:
- Breakdown sheet (PDF Print 8.5 x 11)
- Trello is a web app that lets you display multiple lists in a single view, perfect for creating a to-do list and interrupt list, as well as multiples thereof. ( For more information, check out Lifehacker’s review .)
- Use your favorite app! You can use whatever you want to make the interrupt lists work for you. If you like Wunderlist, Todoist, Todo.txt or whatever, you can use this. While I think having lists next to each other helps a lot, if you prefer separate lists you can switch between them, you can always just add the stop list to your current task management setting. One way doesn’t work for everyone, so don’t follow the rules if a few changes to the interrupt list method I described don’t work for you.
You don’t really need tools to make this work work, but tools can make it more interesting for some people. We all have our preferences. Define yours and try break lists. It can really help you work more efficiently and effectively .