I’ve written previously about the benefits of keeping a to-do list. The process of writing down everything you have to do (either on paper or electronically), prioritizing the list, and scheduling when to do each task can be an efficient and powerful way to get things done. That is, of course, if you honor your commitments and do things when you’ve scheduled them.

Sometimes even my well-planned day can fall apart for the simple reason that I just don’t feel like doing the things I’ve set out to do. This happens a lot in the summer, when I’d much rather be doing something outdoors than sitting at my desk. Here are some techniques I use to pump up my motivation and get things done:

I make the most of my peak mental energy time. I’m definitely a morning person, so right after I exercise, I sit down at my desk and knock out the most challenging thing on my list for that day. I find writing to be difficult, so my morning task is usually writing an article, preparing a presentation, or writing a letter (yes, some of us still do that!). When is your peak mental energy time, and what kinds of tasks can help you make the most of that time?

I tell others about my commitments. I have a group of colleagues with whom I meet monthly by phone to discuss my achievements for the past month and my commitments for the upcoming month. Knowing I’m going to be reporting back to them is a great motivator because I’d hate to disappoint them. Is there someone who can help you with accountability?

I evaluate my list regularly. Every few months, I take a look at my to-do list to identify which things I keep ignoring, and try to determine why. Often times it’s because the task just doesn’t seem important or relevant, in which case I typically just cross it off the list with no regrets. I recently worked with a client who was having a hard time completing her homework for grad school. No matter which time slot she assigned it to, she’d find something else to do instead. We discussed her reasons for entering the program and realized they didn’t align with her goals. She now faces the tough decision of determining whether or not she should stay in the program, but at least she understands the reason for her homework challenge. What items never seem to come off your to-do list? Is it time to remove or delegate them?

I break things down. I identify each of the baby steps needed to complete projects so that everything on my to-do list feels manageable and fits easily into the small blocks of time I usually have available to work on things. What overwhelming to-dos can you break down into smaller steps?

I change the scenery. Rather than wish I could be outside when I have to do desk work or make phone calls, I work on my porch or in my dining room that has three large windows. With a cordless phone and a wirelessly connected laptop computer, I can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature while I work, which makes for a happier and more productive me. If your productivity is impacted by your surroundings, what can you do to remedy that?

I turn my to-do list into a “to choose” list. Sometimes none of my productivity tactics work – I’m just not in the mood to do anything I’d scheduled for a particular day. In those instances I just go with the flow: I choose an item that looks appealing on my to-do list, no matter how low a priority it may be, and do that. Or I choose a physical activity (e.g., clean out a closet) over a brain-based activity. At least something gets accomplished, and sometimes it’s enough to propel me to do one of the items I’d originally scheduled for the day. If not, I know tomorrow will be a better day. What techniques do you use to power through your tasks when you’re not in the mood?

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.