You sit down in the morning and write out your detailed to do list for the day ready to tackle it with gusto. Fast forward 12 hours. It’s bedtime, you are exhausted, and you didn’t even get to check off half the tasks on your list! Is this story all too familiar? It used to be a near daily occurance for me (well, on the days that I even bothered to make the list, that is), until I discovered the secret for really getting most of that list checked off every single day.
Honestly, I have no idea why it took me nearly 30 years to figure this out, because it’s quite simple. My problem was NOT the getting things done part. The problem was in the list making. When I wrote my daily to do list, I wasn’t really writing a list of what I could accomplish that day. Instead, I was writing a wish list of what I would love to accomplish that day in fairy land where there are a few extra hours in each day. It’s nice to dream, but an unrealistic wish list doesn’t do anything for helping me have a productive day.
Once I realized that, I tried to be more realistic with my lists, but that alone wasn’t helping enough. Although I was trying to be more realistic, I was writing a list of what I could accomplish if everything went exactly according to plan, nothing unexpected came up, and I was running at full energy the entire day with no breaks. Let’s face it, folks. I probably have four or five of those days EACH YEAR. I certainly can’t count on a day like that most days.
Here’s what I specifically do to make sure my list is realistic and to feel tons better about checking off most of my list every day:
1) Be More Detailed. This may sound counterintuitive, but I find it helpful when it comes to the daily to do list to include a lot of detail. I often include routine things like going for a walk, household chores, preparing dinner, etc. This helps me to be more realistic and to be able to see what all I really need to accomplish. The routine things often take up a good bit of time. Also, who doesn’t love to check more things off the list? If you’re going to do them, you may as well get the satisfaction of checking them off!
2) Include breaks, rest, and fun activities. In addition to being more detailed with my list, I also like to include rest and fun activities. For example, I might include “eat lunch” or “15 mins on social media.” You probably aren’t going to work sun up to sun down with no breaks, so I think it’s best to plan for the breaks. This will help you be a lot more realistic.
3) Cut it in half. This part is really painful, but equally helpful. Take the realistic list you made, and eliminate half the tasks. That’s right, eliminate half of them! Move those to another list that you can tackle once the first list is done. This will force you to tackle the most important tasks first. Essentially what you are doing is deciding which half of the tasks are most important or most urgent.
4) Add times to the list. I think I talked about this some in the video where I showed how I use my planners, but I often put estimated times beside each task. This also helps me to be realistic about what I’ll be able to accomplish.