Some days it seems like I have a never-ending list of things to do. This includes things for my business, myself, housework, the dog (yes, even my dog has a to-do list), it honestly never seems to end. I pride myself on being a “list person.” I absolutely LOVE making them and I honestly don’t know how some people function without some sort of organized structured tally of ALL THE THINGS they need to do in a given space of time. Every now again though, the thing that brings me so much calm and a sense of control over my day also makes me feel completely overwhelmed.
When you’re seeking advice on how to get more organized, one of the biggest tips that is commonly given is to make a to-do list. This is all fine and dandy except they rarely expand upon what to then do with said list and also how to handle it all if your list is more than like 5-10 things. Full disclosure, my lists are rarely that short. In fact, I might have 5-10 things just for one aspect of my business alone like my website. So how are you supposed to feasibly execute any of the tasks you’ve given yourself when you don’t even know where to start? I may not be a certified expert on this topic, but I can tell you what works for me when trying to organize and prioritize my lists.
1. GET IT ALL OUT
That’s right, all of it. Sit down and get every last task written or typed out. Bonus points if you pre-organize it by giving yourself headings for specific areas like Home, Business etc. This is also commonly known as a “brain-dump.” While this exercise seems like it will just add to the overwelm, by writing everything down, you are allowing your brain to let go of trying to remember ALL of those things.
2. GET SPECIFIC WITH YOUR TO-DO LIST
I mentioned making headings for your initial task download and if you haven’t done that already this is a great time to do that. Categorize each task under which area of your life it belongs under. Don’t worry about getting lost in breaking it down further yet, just think of this step like sorting laundry – all the socks go in one pile before you start pairing them up. (Or if you’re like my partner, he never pairs them up and just leaves them all willy nilly in a drawer to be reunited with each other on a whim like some crazy person…I’m kidding, but seriously….what’s with that???)
3. GET EVEN MORE SPECIFIC
Now that each task has a general category this is a good time to break it down even further. If you have a ‘business’ category for example maybe the tasks get sorted even further into categories like website, projects, marketing, social media, goals etc. You can get as specific as what makes sense for you here.
4. GIVE IT A STAR RATING
Now that everything is specifically broken down into its own category establish a star rating for yourself anywhere from 3 to 10 stars that allows you to now determine the priority each task has to be completed. Be honest and realistic with this. It may feel like everything is a priority one, but chances are it’s not. Think about giving priority to tasks that are time sensitive or seasonally based. Start with a specific category and rate within that category before moving on to the next category and subcategories.
5. BUST OUT THE CALENDAR
I’m a bit old school and still have a physical day planner. Writing things down helps me remember them better and I get a lot of satisfaction out of taking a pen and crossing something off of my daily to-do list. This isn’t always the best for everyone though. Some people will work better with a digital planner that they can set up reminders to be sent to their phone or computer. Figure out what method works best for you. If you’re not sure, it will always be the one you are most likely to maintain and use. I tend to use a combination of both traditional and digital methods. Once you’ve figured out which one works best for you start entering in your tasks. Start with the ones that have specific dates attached to them.
6. ORGANIZE BUT DON’T OVERWHELM
When you’re plotting out your tasks think about what is feasible to achieve in a day for your schedule. If you work during the day and the only time you have is in the evenings, give yourself one or two small tasks to complete a day. You may want to give yourself a variety of categories to tackle each day or save specific days for certain categories. For example, all house related tasks happen on Sundays. Think about what makes sense for you when plotting them out. Also consider the time each task will take. It might make sense to put two 5 minute tasks on a day with a 1 hour task. Don’t forget to also give yourself days without tasks for balance.
7. MAKE IT HAPPEN
You need to hold yourself accountable to achieve the tasks you set out. Some days for a variety of reason I won’t get something I planned done so I just bump it to the next day if I can. That’s a slippery slope though so aim to not bump tasks. Try to only focus on that day’s tasks. If overwhelm is a problem for you get a day planner that only allows you to only see one day at a time. It may take a while to figure out what works best for you, but when you do it’s kind of life-changing.
I went through many versions of day planner before I found a layout and design that suited my needs. Not every layout will suit how your mind works and processes this kind of information. The key is to do what you set out to do. If getting the task done is truly important to you, you will find a way to get it done.
Making a to-do list is a great start in getting things accomplished but if the sight of one makes you want to run for the hills out of anxiety and overwhelm, you have to find a way to take control back. Remember to not be a servant to your list. Tasks that need to be accomplished should always be things that ideally are going to help you improve in your life or get you closer to your goals. Sometimes they can be a mundane as household chores but even those have an overarching end benefit to your quality of life. By categorizing them down to specifics and assigning priority levels to those tasks, you can take back control.
Lastly, and worth mentioning again, remember to give yourself days that are TASK-FREE. The quickest way to burn out is to feel like you have to do something every single day. Pair fun tasks on days with more mundane ones, or figure out what works best for you. Creating a to-do list doesn’t have to be daunting if you visualize your tasks as small opportunities that are working FOR you instead of against you.
Do you like making to-do lists? Share with me in the comments!