For many people, their to-do lists end up dictating their lives instead of helping like they are meant to do.
How about you? Do you feel frustrated and guilty when you look at your list? Is it a constant reminder of everything you haven’t done? Maybe you even feel like you’ve failed.
If your to-do list causes you more pain than gain, it’s time to make some changes!
Today, I’ll show you the secret to help you become the boss of your to-do list again and make it work for you, instead of the other way around! (It’s also the main reason many people hate their to-do lists!)
Step #1 Your approach
Do you like to keep paper lists where you can write things down by hand? Do you prefer to keep everything digitally, using to-do list apps? Or do you like a combination of the two?
If you like to keep everything on your smartphone or computer, take some time to find an app that works for you.
Step #2 Write everything down
You do a LOT every day, whether you give yourself credit for it or not.
Take some time to write out everything you’re thinking about.
Do this now as you work on your new to-do list and on a daily basis (or even more often) as you move forward.
The idea is to get your thoughts down on paper (or digitally) so you don’t have to think about it anymore!
The more you do this, the less overwhelmed you will feel and the more clearly you can think.
For example, if you take your children to the dentist and schedule their next cleaning in 6 months, take the extra 10 seconds and add the appointment to your phone calendar as you schedule it.
Yes, you could take the appointment reminder card from the receptionist and add bring it home so you can add it later. But you’re giving yourself one more thing to do later and one more thing (the appointment card) that you have to keep track of. So just add it to your phone and you don’t have to think about it again until the actual appointment in 6 months.
Another example: your child comes home with information from her teacher about a class party. The teacher has requested donations – snacks, fruit, napkins, paper plates, etc. You would like to help out and agree to send in some bananas.
You can mentally file this away “to remember later” or you can make a note now in your to-do list or calendar that you need to buy bananas the week before the party during your normal grocery shopping day (you don’t need to make a special trip.) Now you don’t have to think about buying bananas until your reminder pops up that you need to add them to your grocery list. You can literally forget about it until your to-do list reminds you.
You can also make a running “Projects” list where you can track things you randomly think of and might forget again. This might include a dripping faucet in the bathroom that you want to ask your husband to fix (or maybe you can fix it yourself). It could be a reminder to sort through extra books to donate to the library. Or even bigger things, like organize the attic or garage.
This is just the beginning of how helpful writing-everything-down can be!
Step #3 Tweak Your To-Do List
It’s easy to get stuck doing something that doesn’t really work, just because you’re used to doing. But it doesn’t mean you should keep doing it; often it’s a waste of time!
This same concept applies to your to-do list.
It’s okay and it’s good to change how you approach it and actually use your to-do list.
Sometimes simply understanding how you work can be helpful.
For example, you might love to start new projects, but you’re not great at actually finishing them. It might be helpful to find a way to track those projects and even set deadlines for yourself as motivation.
Or maybe you love finishing things; checking off those tasks are so satisfying! You may find it discouraging to not “finish” on time as you work on a big, time-consuming task.
Take organizing the attic. If it’s been awhile, you won’t be able to finish this project in an hour or two; it might even require a couple of weekends!
If you work best as a “finisher,” this kind of big task can be discouraging. Instead of writing one thing down on your “to-do” list (aka organize the attic), you might want to consider breaking it into reasonable, smaller chunks.
Example: “work 1 hour organizing the attic.” That’s much easier to finish and check off!
Be aware of what helps you and don’t be afraid to try new things. Small changes can make a huge difference.
To-do lists are meant to help you remember things you need or want to do. But what happens when your to-do list takes over and begins to dictate your life?
You’re cleaning the house one afternoon. Your kids came home from school and it’s a beautiful spring day out. Do you let the cleaning go and enjoy the beautiful weather outside with your family? Or do you stay inside cleaning because you must finish that list?
Maybe you do go outside with your family, but you later feel guilty for not finishing your to-do list.
It can be easy to let your to-do list determine if you’ve done a “good enough” job or not.
You might even feel like you’re not “good enough.” You might feel like you failed.
Here is the secret:
Your value does not depend on what or how much you do.
You are good enough just the way you are, whether you finished everything on your to-do list, a few things, or absolutely nothing at all.
You are enough.
I hope these simple steps and reminders help you get your to-do list working for you. Don’t settle for less; you deserve better!