Ah the age-old to-do list. The reason to buy cute stationery, the most rewarding ‘tick it off as you go’ system, and the biggest guilt tripper since mums were invented (just kidding!).
I don’t know about you but I’ve been a to-do lister since way back. I love writing a huge list and checking it off in different colours. It’s always been a great outlet for a boost of confidence and an equally good self-sabotage technique.
In fact, I got so sick of feeling guilty about my to-do list (and taking a dose of inaction along with that) that I decided to try some new to-do list techniques.
I’m only human so procrastinating is still something I struggle with some days, but just by changing a few things, my to-do list has become much less daunting and I’ve been getting more done, as a result. So, here are some of my best tips:
– Know your why
What is the point of having a to-do list if you don’t know why you’re doing it? Also, what is the reason to stay motivated to get it all done if you don’t have a big and passionate WHY behind you.
And I’m talking in EVERYTHING you do. If you have ‘go to the gym’ on your to-do list every day, why? If you have blog post writing on your to-do list, why? If you have ‘do housework’ on your to-do list, why?
I’m guessing it’s because you want to feel happy and healthy, you want a creative outlet for your thoughts and/or you want to grow your business, and you want to feel happy and comfortable in your home. But that is my interpretation of the reasons WHY I would have those things on my list.
Think about it….in fact, don’t think, FEEL.
And see how that affects what you get done each day.
– Write your weekly goals at the end of the week.
For the next week.
Don’t start behind. Start ahead of the pack. Get your planning done on a Friday afternoon so that, come Monday, you can power on through the gates while other people are still procrastinating away with their to-do list writing.
Going into the week with a clear idea of the things you want to achieve is an amazing motivator.
So, set the time aside at the end of the week, think of your longer term goals and your why, and create your list for the following week with those in mind.
– Underestimate Yourself
Okay, not in a self confidence destroying way, but in a realistic way. I’ve definitely struggled in the past with trying to DO too much, mostly by completely overestimating how much I can achieve in a day or a week.
That is a recipe for disaster.
Because guess what happens when your mile long to-do list is still that long at the end of the day?
You feel terrible.
And that’s not what we’re trying to do here.
So, consider this the self love and self compassion part of to-do listing.
It’s okay to have lofty estimations when writing your to-do lists, BUT if you can choose just 1-3 BIG things to get done throughout the week, it will feel so much more rewarding to achieve them. In fact, you’ll probably get the same amount done throughout the week but it will feel better because you only set yourself up for a few things but you go them done, as opposed to doing a few things and not even making a dent in your list.
By reducing your load you will probably feel better about doing more. Oh, that’s all done already? What can I do now?
Your motivation is suddenly up and you can ride on that energy. Instead of getting trapped in a sea of overwhelm and probably not getting much done at all.
– Don’t overload your days
The same goes for your daily lists. Look at your weekly goals and break them down into smaller chunks to get done through the week.
Mindfully set aside chunks of time each day to get things done, realising that almost everything will take three times longer than you anticipate (that’s a TV rule when writing call sheets and I think it applies to pretty much everything).
I’m clearly no longer a fan of huge lists that are never ending and overwhelming (they used to be my favourite and played a big part in brain burn out, I’m sure!)
Now my daily to-do lists have about three items on them. Yep, three. Sometimes more, but only if they are things I’m definitely going to do, like meet a friend for lunch or go to an appointment.
Just choose a couple of things to get done each day and, remember, it’s not underachieving, it’s preventing all-out mental breakdown.
Trust me, your sanity will thank you.
– Get colourful
When I first started working from home full time, my days would end and I was never able to pinpoint what exactly I’d done.
I started my ‘three things’ to-do lists and I started to pay more attention to what I was doing.
Now, throughout the day, should I feel the pull to do something else, I write that on the list with a different coloured pen.
This means that, at the end of the day or the week, I can clearly see everything that I did. And, not only that, I often feel a great sense of achievement for finishing my to-do list AND doing even more!
– Drop The Guilt
You will also probably have some days where your body is urging you to just CHILL for a change. Listen. And respond accordingly.
If your weekly to-do’s aren’t that long, then having one day off shouldn’t really impact your goals.
But, if you give yourself a break, then you need to REALLY give yourself a break. There’s no point in having down time if you beat yourself up about it. Enjoy it. And get back to work tomorrow, refreshed and ready to go.
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The shift from overwhelm and underachieving to productivity and mindfulness has made a huge impact on my day-to-day. I guarantee that when you take away the guilt and add some compassion to what may seem like a meaningless to-do list, you will notice how much it was getting to you.
So, now it’s your turn! What are your best tips for getting control of your to-do list? Leave me a comment below (and please feel free to share this post with anyone you know who could do with some to-do list assistance!)