You probably have a to-do list as long as your arm right now, and while they’re a great way to stay on top of your goals, tasks, and challenges, you need to beware of using a to-do list as a long-running list of tasks that never get done. You need to make sure that your to-do list is helping you get sh*t done, not holding you back.
This means it needs to be realistic and achievable, too. It needs to be short, sweet, and to the point. Putting absolutely everything you need to do down on your to-do list might make you feel super productive, but it’s only going to lead to stress and chaos in the long run. What you need to do, is approach your to-do list with a strategy. The right strategy will change the way you set and smash goals and give you less anxiety. You just have to start thinking about your to-do list as a way to refine your to-dos and goals and make it so easy that they almost do themselves.
START WITH A BRAIN DUMP
We always say the best way to create a to-do list is to start with the bigger things you need to do and then go micro. The main issue with traditional to-do lists is that they turn into a ‘grocery list’. You list everything you have to do and then wander down the list checking your to-dos off as they appear, with no real strategy about what you’re doing and no structure.
Always, always start with a brain dump. Open up your notebook or bullet journal and write the day of the week at the top. List everything you have to do, all the objectives you need to smash for the day, little or large, overwhelming or not. The Make It Happen notebook is brilliant for this, it’ll keep your daily planner empty of distracting notes and allows you the freedom to write absolutely everything down. Grab a pen and just write. There’s no way you’ll get overwhelmed if you have everything listed down in front of you.
ARRANGE THE LIST BY PRIORITIES
One of the best things you can do is divide your actual to-do list by the 1-3-5 rule. You need one big thing, three medium things, and five little things. The one big thing you need to start with during your day is the biggest task on your list, it might be chipping away at a long-term goal or the hardest task, but you need to start with it if you want to be productive and smash your to-do list. Don’t leave these items to the bottom of your list.
Next, you need three medium items on your to-do list, these are the things you absolutely have to do during the day but that don’t necessarily take as much time as your one big thing. You need to assign time slots to each of these tasks too, don’t let yourself work too long on one thing. Lastly, your five small things should be things like sending emails, checking in with things and doing minor tasks that are easy to tick off.
LEARN THE R-D-D RULE
There’s one rule you should apply to every to-do list. This is the R-D-D rule. Rollover, Delegate, and Drop. When you’re busy, trying to achieve everything on your list can cause some serious stress. According to studies, most people leave 41% of their to-dos undone. It’s time to look at your list and be realistic. What should you roll over to tomorrow’s list that you’ll actually be able to achieve?
Some things will still need to get done on the day and can’t afford to be rolled over, which is where delegation comes into play. You can delegate some of your list if you’re in the position to. If there are lots of little things sucking up your time, use it wisely and delegate.
Finally, if you spend a lot of time rolling something over, and can’t seem to get it done, sometimes you just need to drop it. Make sure that you’re not dropping the biggest tasks on your to-do list. Those are the things you need to make sure are at the top, but when it comes to the little inessential items, sometimes you can forget about it. The key is in having the gut instinct to know what’s unnecessary before you even add it to your list.
MAKE IT SIMPLE
You’re working on your to-do list and you might have created something super long, but that won’t motivate you to get stuff done. Take the list from your notebook and write it into your planner as simply as you possibly can. Be specific, and be realistic. A longer lists leaves more room for things to go undone.
Studies have shown that in order to make sure you get your to-dos smashed, you need to simplify them and change the way you talk about them, too. Start with ‘If X, then Y’ and you’ll know what you’re doing every day. If it’s a Monday, you go to the gym for example. Write your shortened list out in your Getting Stuff Done planner and know that you’re staying on track with everything you need to do, and your to-do list is working with you, not against you.
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