Life can feel so overwhelming at times.  There is always something to do and it often seems as though we don’t have enough hours in the day.  To ease the feeling of overwhelm that comes with being too busy many of us look to the handy to-do list.

We quickly jot down things that we need to do and it gives a fleeting feeling of comfort.  It’s as though writing our tasks down on a piece of paper or filing them in our electronic devices has suddenly lessened the stress that comes from having so many things to do.  We feel accomplished.  Yet strangely enough many a to-do list is just that, a to-do list; words on paper that haven’t taken us one step closer to the peace we seek.  This happens when the items on our to-do list never seem to get crossed off.  They seem to linger into the next day, next month, and so on.  How do we find ourselves in these situations?  What is the real problem with our to-do list?

I’ve faced this problem many times in the past and have discovered five things that help my to-do list become more effective for me and actually ease my stress.

  1. Action Steps Are a Must: It’s easy to write things down like Organize Kitchen, Plan Kids Party, or Clean Garage.  Those are great to-do items.  However, they could be a little more efficient.  I’ve found that placing specific action steps next to my to-do items helps me to better execute the job.  As an example let’s take the to-do item Plan Kids Party.  Next to this item I would make a list of actions steps that would include, make a list of invites, identify location, choose a menu, purchase decorations, etc.  This adds teeth to my to-do item by making it more actionable.
  2. Include Specific Dates and or Times: Next to each action item, it’s always good to list a date or approximate time to complete the item.  This will help prevent your action items from lingering on your list.  If you know that you have to go out and run errands on a certain day and time, make sure that all of your action items that require you to leave the house are slotted for that specific time.
  3. Determine an Estimated Time of Completion: A lot of times the items on our to-do list don’t get accomplished, not because we do not have enough time but because we don’t utilize our time efficiently.  This happens because we aren’t aware of the time we waste.  Therefore by determining how long it should take to complete a specified task we subconsciously push ourselves to focus on the tasks before us and avoid unnecessary distractions so that our tasks are completed.
  4. Place Your To-Do-Items in Order: Nothing is worse than sitting around wondering what I should do next. That in and of itself is a waste of time which is why it is so important that you list your to-do items in the order that they should be completed.  It’s much more efficient to look at your list and know exactly what tasks should be tackled and in what order.  This eliminates the time we spend planning our days out in our minds.
  5. Commit to Completing Your Tasks: You must daily be committed to completing the tasks you have identified that need to be completed on a particular day.  This is the greatest challenge I’ve found with to do list.  Make your action items a priority.  Place them before watching TV or any other non essential activity.  You don’t want to fall into the habit of having your to do list items run over into the next day’s activities.  Furthermore, you don’t want to be overly ambitious and identify too many items for completion in a particular day.  This too can be disheartening.  Be reasonable and you will have a better shot at completing the items on your to-do list.

Well, there you have it.  If you are intentional about making a to-do list and then follow these five steps, I’m certain you will be well on your way to a more productive life.

The word "Share" written in vintage wooden letterpress type.

Share:  What are your thoughts on this post?  What things have you done to become more productive? Please share your thoughts as well as this post with someone who could benefit from it.

Homework:  Take a few moments and map out your upcoming week.  Put together a to-do list implementing the five strategies outlined above.  Now commit to following this to-do list.  Be sure to record your thoughts as well as progress in your journal.   Record whether or not your week was more productive, the same, or less productive.  Until next time keep being Extraordinary!

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