I'm a big fan of lists. Every morning when I wake up, I find it helpful to know exactly what needs to get taken care of that day. One of my biggest pet peeves is spending more time on work than I need to. Time is the most precious resource we have, so if we only need five hours to get everything done, why work for 10? Studies have shown that work productivity goes down as we try to work past 40 hours a week. So the key is to increase efficiency to reduce wasted time.

The benefit of having a to-do list is when done properly it prevents you from wasting time. While this is the premise, many of us don't use the advantages of structuring our schedule the right way. Below, I'll share a few methods you can use to make sure you're optimizing your daily task list. Adopt these strategies today and you'll get more done, while giving yourself more time.

1. Wake up and get to work

I'm not a morning person. It's taken me a while to come to grips with this, but there's just no way I want to wake up before 7 a.m. To make matters worse, I've found out that if I don't get at least 7 hours of sleep my productivity diminishes. If you're like me, the key to setting yourself up for success is to take care of business right when you wake up.

When my alarm clock goes off, the first thing I do is meditate. After that, I just start shooting objectives off the list. Try and get as much done as you can before noon, so you can protect yourself from surprises later on in the day. In the evenings, we have families to go home to or friends to grab drinks with. This means that if we still have a good amount to complete after 6 pm, the situation is looking grim. Data suggests that most of us work more efficiently in the morning. Take advantage of this and knock out a majority of your work early in the day.

2. Do the quick and easy tasks first

There's nothing like the feeling of crossing of a task on our list. It feels so good to draw a line through the goal, and it gets you excited. A quick way to cheat yourself to success is by using this to your advantage. To do this, try picking out the tasks that don't take a lot of time and get them done. When you make your list, if you have a really hard job to get done, consider breaking it down into smaller sections.

You want to get yourself on a rhythm throughout the day, so by the time you are feeling tired you can look at all you've accomplished. And just because some things on your list don't take a lot of time, doesn't mean they're not important. I put important emails I need to send on my task list all the time. Sure, it doesn't take much work to get done. But executing on them is important for my business, and it gives me a push to keep working through the next tasks.

3. Take breaks but use time blocks

The people who mess up on using task lists are the ones who go through each job without their greatest effort. I like to compare to-do lists to running sprints. You work as hard as you can to get to the finish line, then you stop and take a break. Then you repeat the process until everything is done.

For instance, I love playing chess. So after I complete a block of tasks, I'll play a game or two. But when it comes time for another job to get crossed off, I drop all my distractions and get it done. I log out of social media, shut my door, and put away my phone. There's no time for distractions. Either you're taking care of business or you're taking a break. Somewhere in the middle is the place you never want to be.

Published on: Mar 4, 2015
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