why your using your to-do list wrong & 3 tips to kick it into gear
Let's be honest. Lists can be so amazing. They can make you feel organized, on top of things, and give you a clear direction. I mean, I use lists for everything. They're part of all of the systems that run my life, but yet, they can also be part of the problem if you're looking at them all wrong. I know that feeling all too well where your list becomes this looming pile of responsibilities that keeps weighing you down and feels never-ending. Oh my gosh, I'm just thinking about the mile high to-do list from every overseas move that we've ever had! Yeah, that's not the organized, on top of things feeling that I'd like to have. But, honestly when your lists become crazy long and you get swamped with all you have to do, you can really start feeling like you're drowning. It's like you need a life preserver to help pull your head above water and escape the to-do list and all the responsibilities that go along with it.
Yeah, let's get a better way to approach it. You see, your list is there to guide you and give you purpose. It's not there to drag you down and make you feel like a failure. Oh no, my friend. We're not gonna go there because I know you're a strong mom boss force to be reckoned with, and you're gonna show your to-do list who's boss. Of course, you've got a lot on your plate with everything you've got going on, so I'm gonna show you a different way to look at your to-do list so you'll be singing it's praises instead of heading for the hills.
1. use it to take worry out of the equation
When you've got tons of responsibilities and lots of things coming up on your schedule, there's a lot to worry and stress about. We just keep replaying everything over and over in our heads and worrying about all the possibilities that might occur. It's not good, my friend, not good at all. Instead of just paralyzing yourself with worry, stress, and doubt, you can do something about it. Use your list! Get all of the things you're worried about down on paper (or type it out) and out of your head. Make sure you put absolutely everything down that's been bothering you.
First, start with your to-do list items that have been nagging at you. Then, move on to the upcoming things on your schedule that you've been thinking about constantly. Third, make a list of all of the things that have been worrying you no matter if they're tied to a to-do item or not. Once you have those all written down, you need to flesh it out a little bit. Think about where the worry is coming from and what possible solutions would help you to alleviate that worry. If there's an upcoming client meeting you're worried about, maybe there's something you can do ahead of time to put your mind at ease. If it's your child your worried about, maybe you can think of a way to help them.
The key is to get it all out on paper instead of swirling around in your head. Then, you identify where the worry is coming from or what it's related to and you write down one or two solutions for to each scenario that's been playing out in your mind. When you get all of this stress out of your head and down on paper, you becomes much easier to focus on what you're doing. You won't stress so much over what's to come because you have a plan and steps to take written down, so you're prepared for anything. You don't have to worry so much about all you have to do because it's all there for when you need it. You can focus your attention elsewhere and be more present in what you're doing at that moment.
2. start rating your tasks like a food critic
Um, if you don't know it already, I'm really big on priorities. I mean, huge. It really frustrates me when people say that they're so busy and have so much to do, when in reality they just don't know how to prioritize. I know you have a giant to-do list just like I do, and we all have the same amount of time in the day. But, you know what, you've gotta prioritize to find your way through it without being a total disaster. My friend, I know you've got the skills for prioritization.
Now, I'm gonna give you two ways of ranking your list so that you can more easily decide what to work on when. The first one is gonna help you figure out which items are the easiest to accomplish and which are the most difficult. Think of it this way, you've got the Michelin star system that ranks restaurants, right? Well, let's use that same concept to rate the things on your list. Now, you've got some things that are like the fast food restaurants of your list. They're quick and easy to do and take no time at all, but still need to get done. Those things deserve one star because they're basic. Then, you've got the really big projects that take a lot of your time to accomplish just like a fancy restaurant with white tablecloths, a tasting menu, and wine list. Those are the ones that are gonna get four stars on your list. You know what I'm talking about. Those items won't just disappear off your list easily. It's gonna take some effort, so rank them with four stars, and you'll know those are for serious days.
Next, you want to actually put your list items into a ranking that shows how important they are to get done. This is where you put your list in order from top to bottom with the thing that's absolutely most important at the top and going down in descending order. You should still have all of your items starred from our Michelin style system, so they each have a priority rank as well as a difficulty ranking. Now that you know those two things about everything on your list, you can pull items out of your large list that are the most important and the easiest to do right away. Work your way through by choosing a variety of tasks by weighing their importance and how much time you have to accomplish them. That way you know you're doing the critical stuff first, but you're not wasting time going back and forth between random items when you could be checking something easy to do off your list in the time that you do have.
3. break it down & conquer all
A well prioritized list can be an incredible tool to guide you, but you need to go a little further with it to make it more effective. I'm not talking about working from your never-ending to-do list that keeps scrolling for pages and pages. Uh, no. Having that prioritized list is important, but you need to go a step further and break that down for yourself in order to really start being productive. Give yourself a running start by making it a manageable size so that you can actually check everything off of it and feel amazingly accomplished each day. How do you do that when it's a mile long? Well, my friend, you break it down.
Looking at your monster list of tasks everyday even with it prioritized could seriously make you go insane. I mean, seriously, there's probably some study out there or something about it. Here's a better way to deal with it: section your list into smaller to-do lists that you can do a little at a time. The best way to tackle a monster list is to take 3-4 items per day that will frame the work you do in that day. It's best to limit yourself to only a few items so you have a real chance to finish those tasks, check the boxes (woohoo!), and feel energized about getting something done. It doesn't have the same effect when you've got 10 things on your list and you get 3 done. That would make me feel pretty bummed about accomplishing hardly anything. But when I've only got 3 things on my list and I did all 3, now we're talking! I've built up momentum to proper myself forward into other tasks and into the next day.
You're framing your day with essentially 3-4 achievable items that shape what you'll do. You can choose one large task and a couple small ones or several little ones based off of your prioritization ranking. Just make sure that you're not piling on 4 giant, long term projects onto one day. Make it as easy as possible to get those things done. Break out your tiny to-do list from your larger one in advance, and don't forget to set yourself up for success with any resources you might need to get it done. Then, focus your day on those specific goals as if that monster to-do list doesn't even matter. It's out of the picture while your tiny list is front and center.
The list should be a guide for you and not a stress point. Having a plan on paper is an awesome foundation to going through your day, but you have to make it work for you. Don't let it take over your head and stress you out non-stop. You're the boss lady, and now you've got the tools to make that to-do list work for you. Now, get out there and start accomplishing some amazing stuff.