Instead of writing down every thought that comes to mind on your to-do list, break everything down to its smallest tasks. One simple principle to follow is to make sure every item on your to-do list starts with a verb. TUAW editor and contributor Dave Caolo writes in a guest post for Better Mess:

When I started working on this post, the first step was “brainstorm post.” That was all I had to do for the day. Next came, “write outline” and then “review outline.” While “write article” is a daunting task, 15 minutes of brainstorming is not.

Here’s a related tip. Action steps start with a verb. Brainstorm article. Write outline. Call Jane. Charge phone. Invoice Amy. In each example, it’s very clear what needs to be done. “New Hampshire road trip” is a project. “Buy map of New Hampshire” is an action step.

Execution appears much more straightforward when you have a good idea of the next actionable step — and we love action steps.

  • Say Keng Lee

    I fully concur. A verb denotes an action step,
    a clearly defined task which needs to be done in order to achieve a
    desired objective. Otherwise, in today’s world of numerous digital
    distractions, or as most folks are now so caught up in what one brilliant author has termed, “digital dementia”, a noun is more likely to end up as just a collectible or reference.

    In neurological terms, a verb represents a “move” command to the brain.
    As Einstein once said, “nothing changes until something moves”!

    • Christine Irwin

      I need to get out of that digital dementia and move more verbs into my vocabulary. Good stuff!

  • http://www.52weeksofhabits.com/ Nathaniel Eliason

    I use the Rule of Three (http://bit.ly/11Cnkp5) to get a lot done each day and when I started making everything on my list a verb I found I was getting a lot more done . It also makes the tasks so much less daunting–you have clear instruction what to do.

  • Joshua Roebuck

    Breaking everything down to its smallest tasks (each with a specific verb) is key for me. But it’s difficult to find task management apps that allow for a hierarchy of sub-projects/sub-tasks. Interestingly, there’s a lot of people out there who dislike that feature as much as I like it.

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