Ugh! Just the words “to-do list” are enough to make you feel overwhelmed with dread. Your to do list doesn’t have to fill you with dread.
As a busy woman, your to do list is probably never ending. Every time you clear one item, another one is added. Sometimes that one completed item is replaced with two or three more, making your list longer than when you started.
I feel your pain! It’s a common problem for busy women everywhere.
When I left my corporate job in 2000, I considered myself pretty good at crossing off items on the to do list. But when I started to transition to working for myself, somehow it didn’t translate and I struggled with productivity and accomplishing everything I wanted.
Honestly, to this day it’s not completely clear to me why this occurred, but it did and I knew I needed to find a solution to this problem or I wouldn’t get anything done!
Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different ways to gain control over my to-do list. I’ve tried online tools which I didn’t like at all and quickly abandoned. I’ve tried just creating my own system, which was also a big, fat, failure. And, I’ve tried several kinds of planners. My personal favorite and the one I currently use is the Living Well Planner.
Today I use a system that works well for me and helps me reach my goals and cross the most important things on my list in the least amount of time.
Are you ready to do the same thing?
Are you ready to get each and every item checked off that list? To have your to-do list completely done? At least for one night. Tomorrow’s another day with more to-dos. But at the end of the day, wouldn’t it feel wonderful to know that you can start tomorrow with a clean slate? You’d probably be much more relaxed and stress-free.
It’s time to take control of your to-do list instead of letting it control your day, your life, and even your mood. It’s time to put a check mark next to every single item and get it done in less time.
HOW TO FINISH YOUR TO DO LIST IN HALF THE TIME
REVIEW YOUR TO DO LIST
First things first, take a good look at every item on that list. I’d almost be willing to bet there’s an item or two that you don’t even need to do. The time to do it has passed or it’s just not that important to you anymore. If that’s the case, cross those items off.
If your list contains tasks that other people asked you to do and you only said yes because you didn’t know what else to say, figure out what you need to do to cross them off. Is it something easy that you can knock out in 10 minutes or less? If so, get it done then decide how you will handle similar requests in the future.
Practice saying “no.” You don’t need to offer an excuse or an apology, “no” is a complete sentence. If it’s a bigger, more time-consuming task, consider sending it back to the person who gave it to you or figure out who you can ask for help. And continue practicing “no” as a future response.
BREAK DOWN TASKS
Now that you have your to-do list cleaned up, it’s time to get serious.
Take a look at your list and look for anything that seems like a big project. Something like “clean out the attic” or “organize closet”. Chances are these projects are still on your to-do list because they are big projects that take a lot of time and you just haven’t had several hours to spend on them. The good news is, you don’t need several hours.
Break these bigger projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks that don’t take more than an hour. For instance, “clean out attic” might include organizing the holiday decorations and packing old clothes into boxes. Each item becomes a separate to-do list.
I know, you’re thinking “it makes my list longer.” But, it also makes your tasks more manageable so you can chip away at them instead of leaving them on your to-do list for weeks or even months.
When you break down your t0 do list into bite sized pieces and you’re able to start accomplishing these smaller bite size morsels of work, you actually get more done because you see you’ve accomplished things and this continues to spur you to do more.
That’s the beauty of bite sized pieces on you to do list.
In order to get things done quickly and feel like you’ve accomplished something, you need to prioritize your tasks so you can stay on top of what needs to be done next. The Franklin Covey prioritization system is a great one. Here’s how it works:
- Each item that is an absolute priority for today – put an “A” next to it.
- Items that are a “would like to get to it today if I have time” – put a “B” next to them.
- Everything that you want to accomplish sometime this week – write “C” next to them.
- And tasks that aren’t as important and you’ll get to them whenever – write “D” next to them.
Try to have no more than 5 items with A’s and B’s. Now, prioritize even further. Take a look at all your “A” items and number them 1-5 for top priority on down. Do the same with the other letters.
Now everything on your list is prioritized and you know exactly what needs to be done first. When it’s done, you simply move on to the next task without even thinking “what should I do now?”
Schedule time to plan your to-do list then schedule time to get your tasks done.
Spend a few minutes every evening planning out the next day’s list. That way, you can get right into it the next morning. And that task you’re dreading the most … that needs to be an A1 priority. Get it out of the way first thing so you don’t spend the entire day dreading it. Just do it and move on.
Schedule time on your calendar for working on your to-do list. Just like an appointment that you can’t break. Imagine how much stress you’ll relieve when you start marking those items off. Get your to-do list on the calendar then keep the appointment with yourself to get it done.
WORK WITH ENERGY
Plan to tackle your to-do list when you know you’ll have lots of energy and focus. If you’re a morning person, then make that the time to get things done. Afternoons work better for you? Plan time then to tackle your list.
When you’re getting to work, set a timer. This will help you stay focused and avoid distractions. Plan on working in 60 minutes blocks, focused on one specific task and get as much done as possible. Then take a quick break – get up and stretch your legs, refocus and then get back to work for another 60 minutes. During your focus time, don’t turn on the TV, don’t check your email, don’t even pick up your cell phone.
Leave all distractions to the side until your 60 minutes are up. You can wait that long to check Facebook – better yet, don’t check Facebook all day. It will just suck you into that time wasting vortex and do nothing to help you reach your goals and get more done.
If you really want to work for longer stretches of time just apply the same principle. I like to work in blocks of two hour stretches then take a break. It’s totally up to you.
If you want to get more done and reach your goals the key secret is FOCUS.
Every successful person I know has one thing in common, they are super focused on what they want to accomplish.
They don’t spend their time chasing the “bright shiny objects,” or trying to be everything to everyone. They don’t spend too much time on social media and they don’t worry about endless details.
They have their eye on the prize, and they don’t let anything distract them from their goals.
If now is the time to make this happen, the thing you’ll have to work on the most is FOCUS, and on cutting out all the distractions that get in the way of accomplishing your goals and crossing items off your to do list.
You know it’s easy to talk about balance and sometimes I wonder if there really is such a thing. For me balance isn’t something we create but rather something we allow into our lives and make time for.
It’s about a different way of living. It’s about learning to say no to what doesn’t really matter so you can make room for what’s truly important.
The truth is balance comes from rest. Something we all probably already know but need reminding once in awhile.
Now that you have a plan for tackling that dreaded to-do list, you can blast through it in no time. No need to put it off any longer. Clean it up, break it down, prioritize, schedule, work with your energy levels, stay focused and don’t forget to balance yourself and get the rest you need. You’ll be checking items off faster than you ever thought possible.