6 Tips To Manage Your To Do List
Does your To Do list fit on a post-it note or take up an entire notebook or maybe even a few notebooks? We tend to put too much on our lists and end up frustrated with ourselves when we can’t check them all off at the end of the day. Truthfully, we’re setting ourselves up for failure from the start. Our To Do lists can be extremely helpful to keep us on track, however, the problem often lies in what and how much we’re actually putting on the list. Unreasonable expectations of how long it actually takes to complete a task can lead to a feeling of failure when we don’t make enough time to get everything done. And that’s just not fair because you’re awesome!
1. One Minute
Set an alarm for one minute and do nothing– you’ll be amazed at how long one minute actually is. Now imagine how much you could have gotten done in those 60 seconds. You can get a heck of a lot done in a short period of time if you’re really focused. Reframing our time can help us to get focused and re-energized to tackle our daily To Do’s.
Often we avoid meditation because we assume it has to be for hours and we have to know how to do it. Just sitting still for 2 minutes and breathing (seems easy enough) can help calm and ground our bodies and minds exponentially. Set an alarm for a few minutes before your day begins or before a big To Do that you want to tackle and see how it helps you focus. We’ve recently learned about Meditation In Motion (MIM), which suggests meditating while doing “mindless” tasks. Try taking a few minutes to calm your mind while showering or brushing your teeth. Seriously…try it!
Imagine your mind as a tank of gas – everything you do is lowering your tank level, but every time you meditate you’re adding fuel & recharging your body and mind’s tank to get you through your day.
3. Analysis Paralysis
Starting is easy, finishing is hard. Often we focus too much on finishing a task or project and we end up procrastinating instead of just getting started. Worrying about finishing is a form of perfectionism – we can obsess about the end product and never get started. Give yourself permission to not finish a project – say to yourself “maybe I’ll never finish, it’s ok, I’m just going to start and see where it goes.” I bet you that you’ll finish.
Remember our 15 minute rule that we always talk about? We suggest setting aside 15 minutes to tidy up and prepare for the next day. Why not apply this rule to your To Do list. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes and make that a victory. “I did 15 minutes of work instead nothing!” is a victory in itself. If you dedicate 15 minutes each day to the task at hand, before you know it you’ll be done.
We love the Time Timer – it’s a timer whose sole purpose it to help you stay focused and complete a task. Their products also help manage the stress of transitions between tasks by showing “how much longer?” you have left to work on a task. They are especially great for kids and people with ADHD.
4. Have to vs. Get to
Reframing the language we use around our To Do’s can help change our attitude and help get us going. Instead of saying “I have to do the laundry” try using phrases like “I’m going to”, “I’m choosing to”, or “I get to.” When we say we have to do something it’s expressing victimhood and creating a negative energy around the task. If we change our attitudes around the thing we need to get done, it can not only help us get it done, but we might even end up enjoying the process.
5. OHIO & the 4 T’s
Multi-tasking is for suckers. How many Internet browser tabs do you open at once? Do you switch back and forth between multiple items on your To Do list within a matter of minutes? It can feel like you’re getting more done, but we’ve learned (and it’s been scientifically proven) that multitasking doesn’t actually make you more efficient. “Research shows that its not nearly as efficient as we’d like to believe, and can even be harmful to our health. What you call multitasking is really task-switching, says Guy Winch, PhD. Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears. Experts estimate that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity.” (Health.com) On top of multi-tasking being less effective, constantly switching between tasks causes you to become stressed and overwhelmed by all the things that you’re trying to tackle at once.
“Psychiatrists and productivity experts often recommend OHIO: Only Handle It Once. This is a rule of thumb for many people with ADHD, but it can also be practiced by anyone who wants to be more organized. It basically means if you take something on, don’t stop until you’ve finished it.” (Health.com) What makes this rule even more powerful is to add on Karen Turner’s 4 T’s. Here they are…
Tackle It – do something now with that email, memo, etc
Task It – schedule a specific time on your calendar to handle it
Toss It – self-explanatory
Transfer It – forward it and delegate it to a more suitable team member
Ask yourself “what am I doing right now?” Anything that you’re NOT doing right now is a distraction. Putting a label on these outside stimulators as “important” or “distraction” can help us make a conscious decision to stay focused on the task at hand. Distractions often pop up in the form of phone calls, texts, emails, social media notifications, kids shouting in the other room and the dog barking. Try turning your phone ringer off while you’re working on a task and eliminate as many distractions as possible before you commit to a task. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done when you don’t have distractions.