Simple ways to take back control of your to-do lists
We all love a list right? We have lists in our phone notes, we have lists on sticky notes that sit in piles all over the house and we have notebooks full of lists. The problem is, we have all the ideas and not enough time, and this results in those spiralling feelings of overwhelm and panic. If you’re feeling that right now, it’s time to take a step back and get your to-do list back under control.
In this post I’m sharing some helpful pointers on how you can write to-do lists that inspire action and get to the end of each day. Cue feel good factor.
Gather your to-do’s
First up, pull all of your to-do lists together and put them on one long list. Yes, it probably does look like Santa’s list on Christmas Eve right now but bear with me here, we’ll get on to cutting it down in a bit. Hunt around the house for all of those scraps of paper and sticky notes with lists on, open up your phone notes and write down all of the to-do’s you’ve got buried in there and create one big list. If it helps, write up two lists, a ‘business’ list and a ‘life’ list – because we all have birthdays to remember and appointments to juggle.
Remove tasks for your list
Yep, that’s right, I’m saying remove some tasks and I don’t mean by doing them first. We all fall into the trap from time to time of doing things because we feel we ‘should’ or because we see other people finding success by doing certain things in their businesses. The thing is, your business is as unique as you. Your time is better spent focussing on the tasks you enjoy and the projects that really click with you. So, get honest with yourself, tap into what your gut is telling you and take those ‘should’ actions clean off your list!
Use the 2-minute method
This is a favourite of mine because quite simply, it works. Go through your list and put a star next to all of the tasks that will take you two minutes or less. It’s amazing how these quick jobs build up on our lists, especially if we’re not looking forward to doing the task. It’s often those tasks like sending that email or updating our finance spreadsheet or perhaps tweaking something on your website. Once you’ve starred them all, get to work straight away on your two-minute tasks and enjoy ticking those tasks off your list in quick succession.
Prioritise your actions
Your list should already be looking a lot shorter by this point. The next step is to prioritise your actions – which isn’t always easy. This is another situation where you need to listen to your gut. Go through your list and highlight the urgent actions – the ones that need to be done in the next week. If it helps you to prioritise, limit yourself to just five urgent actions.
Keep a daily & a long-term to-do list
I hope in just those few steps you’ve already got a to-do list that’s looking a lot shorter. But rather than finish there I want to share some tips on how to stay in control of your list moving forwards. It might be looking beautiful and succinct right now but we all have a tendency to revert back to the lists-all-over-the-house thing.
I use my 12-month action plan as my master to-do list. Basically, what this does is keeps all of my long term to-do’s all in one place while I just focus on the daily to-dos on my list. My point here is that you don’t want to be working off the to-do list you’ve just created – even though it’s shorter than it was before it can still become hugely overwhelming. So keep your master to-do list somewhere and create a shorter daily to-do list to focus on in the short term where you’re just looking at bite-sized chunks, here’s how…
Must do & could do
Try splitting your daily to-do list into ‘must do’ and ‘could do’ and make sure you’re not putting any more than three tasks into the ‘must-do’ list each day. This will not only help you tackle the more important tasks first but also give you more chance of getting to the end of your to-do list and reaching that feel-good factor.
The power of verbs
Write your to-do’s starting with a verb. So “blog post” becomes “write blog post” or “orders” becomes “package up and send out orders”. It’s a simple trick that works wonders. Simply by putting that action word at the start of each task makes it easier to get started on.
Get an understanding of how long tasks actually take
Underestimating how long jobs take is something lots of people struggle with, myself included. But there are a few ways to get a better handle on how long your regular tasks are actually taking.
Firstly, try giving yourself double the amount of time you think you’ll need for a task. So if you think it’ll take an hour to send off a day’s orders, give yourself two hours and see if that’s more realistic or whether you finish before the two hours are up. You can also time yourself doing these tasks and keep a note of how long they take. After a while trying out these couple of techniques, you’ll start to get a handle on how long your tasks are really taking and you’ll be able to block out time for them each day more realistically.
Schedule in time for yourself
A final note on to-do lists, something I’ve struggled to make time for in the past is time for myself. Yeah, I know you struggle with that too. It’s only natural when you love what you do. But, by taking time out to rest, recharge and stoke your creative fire you’ll only be doing yourself and your business a favour. What I’ve found works for me is to schedule time in each day to do things like take a walk or have a bath or just take 30 minutes out to read.
Scheduling your self-care into your diary gives it a sense of urgency and importance, which might just encourage you to make the time for yourself, as well as your business.