The one thing you didn’t know about your to-do list

Have you ever noticed that some tasks on your to-do list get crossed off right away, making you feel like a productivity superstar? And other tasks … well, they tend to stay on the list and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get them to budge because:

And so they stubbornly stay put on your to-do list, mocking you, shaking your confidence as someone who gets stuff done.

Here’s the problem.

What you’re thinking is a task is really a project in disguise. People who are able to move mountains fast know the difference.

Let’s take a look at the two:

You see, a task is something that will take one or two steps to complete. You schedule a time to do it, you take action, and finito … it’s complete.

On the other hand, a project is something that’s much more complex. It may include:

No wonder it won’t budge.

So let’s take a different approach.

First, confirm this is a project and not a task. Ask yourself if any of these apply:

Now that it’s clear you’re dealing with a project, you need to start thinking like a project manager.

Step 1: Take it off your to-do list

Projects are special, they get a time and action plan. This can be as simple as using a spreadsheet or a more sophisticated project-management app like Asana.

Step 2: Get clear on the objective of the project

What is the intended outcome? Why? Who is requesting this project? What will make it a success? How will you measure success?

Step 3: Agree on a deadline

When does this project need to be completed? Is there any flexibility with that date? What are the consequences of not meeting that date?

Step 4: Discuss the budget

How much will this cost? What happens if you go over budget? Who needs to approve the budget?

Step 5: Create your plan of action

This is where the party starts!

Projects tend to be high-maintenance. They can be demanding, unrealistic and have a mind of their own. So a few things to keep in mind:

Completing your project should give you a reason to celebrate (or take a long nap). I’d celebrate and take a nap! Then look for the next project that may be hiding on your to-do list as a task. It will never trick you again.

Mimi Bishop is a productivity + time management expert and a certified life coach. To survive the days you’re just way too busy download 10 Ways to Take Back Your Time at