To do lists are these wonderful, magical things that can transform your day from an overwhelming mess to a structured and organised chaos. They can help clear your mind and help you achieve even more in your day with less effort… But, how often do you actually complete your to do list?
I have to admit, for a long time I was the kind of person who would throw way too much on my to do list and then go hell bent on doing as much as I possibly could. The problem was, no matter how much work I did, I never completed my to do list. It was never done. Because it was impossibly long. It had a good weeks worth of tasks on it for one day.
I figured, the more I put on there the harder I would work to have it done. Right?
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it made me work hard. But it was the negative effects hit had on my mentality that was the problem.
You see, I started to approach my to do list as a ‘it’s never all going to get done’ kind of deal. And that sucks. It meant I wasn’t feeling that amazing sense of achievement that comes with actually completing your to do list for the day. It meant I felt like I was always overwhelmed and always chasing my tail. And it meant I was always focusing on the ‘more’ that I had to do, not the achievement of the things I had already done.
So I set out to change it and actually make a point of finishing my to do list everyday.
Here’s how I make it happen.
Write Two Lists
This seriously is one of the biggest changes I made that just cleared my head so much.
The first list is like a brain dump of all the things you can think of that need to be done. It’s pretty much what your to do list would have looked like before if you were like me trying to do everything all at once. Write everything down you can think of that needs to be done, personal, business, work… anything.
Then, create an actual to do list for the day. Using the items off your first list, compile a list of tasks that actually need to be done that day.
I usually break mine into 3 sections, home, business and personal. Home tasks might include things like two loads of laundry and unstacking the dishwasher, business could include responding to emails and writing x number of articles and personal could include a coffee date with a friend or my self care activity for the day.
The point is to make this list achievable and to focus on what needs to be done, rather than everything you think you should be doing.
Include Smaller Tasks
We do a whole lot in the day that we don’t give ourselves credit for. Starting to include smaller tasks or micro tasks into your to do list will not only give you a visual representation of all that you’ve achieved, but will also bring extra satisfaction when you get to cross even more tasks off your to do list each day.
Things like grocery shopping, unstacking the dishwasher and responding to emails are all tasks we do on a fairly regular basis but tend to leave off the to do list.
I’ll even add a task to the to do list, even if I’ve already done it, just so I can cross it off. Cheating? Maybe. But it feels good.
Mark Your Priorities
Once you have your to do list all set out with your tasks you need to complete and your smaller tasks added in, mark out your top 3 priorities. The top 3 things that absolutely must be done no matter what. The 3 things that if everything else on that list didn’t happen, it would be okay because those 3 things were done.
Having these actually marked out as priorities means you’re more likely to focus on them during your day and have a visual reminder that these tasks are important and need to be done.
Do One Task The Night Before
Want to always feel like you’re on top of your to do list? Complete one tasks the night before and you’re already on your way to finishing your list. I write out my to do list at night (usually), or at the very least I write out my big brain dump list of to do’s. From that, I always make sure I’ve done one thing or set myself up to complete one thing immediately of a morning.
It could be as simple as setting out your clothes the night before so you know what you’re going to wear for the day (get dressed… tick – love those micro tasks).
Whatever it is, crossing one item off your to do list the night before ensures you’re going to kick off the day in the right way by not feeling overwhelmed and already starting your day with a sense of achievement.
Such simple little changes to how you approach your to do list can make such a massive difference in your ability to actually complete your to do list each day.