How to Tame Your Crazy To-Do List For Good

We don't actually have 24 hours in a day. 

I mean, technically speaking, we do. But from a productivity standpoint, most of those hours are already allotted before we open our eyes. When I wake up, I already have a full schedule of things I have to do.  

On an average weekday, my timeline looks like this:

12:00 am - 5:00 am: Sleep

5:00 am - 6:00 am:  Morning Routine

6:00 am - 7:00 am:  Commute to Job

7:00 am - 4:00 pm:  Work 

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm:  Commute Home

5:00 pm - 6:15 pm:  After Work Routine 

6:15 pm - 10:15 pm: Tackle To Do List

10:15 pm - 11:00 pm: Before Bed Routine

11:00 pm - 11:59 am:  Sleep

When you account for all these time constraints, I have 4 hours to get anything important done. Less if I need to squeeze in a work out or get some down time. 

Because those precious 4 hours fall at the end of my day, my productivity is dependent on how I'm feeling. Often, by the time I've washed the last dish, set the coffee pot, and packed my lunch, I'm pretty spent. 

So. 4 tired hours. That's what I have to work with. 

Know Your Limits.

Half of winning the "get sh*t done" battle is understanding your real life vs your ideal life. It doesn't matter how ambitiously you assign your tasks for the week. If you don't have the time or energy to execute your plan, it's not a good plan.

It's also important to recognize your productivity ZERO days. We all know these days. For example, if you know you often get held late at work on Monday, address that in your weekly plan. You might have an appointment every Tuesday that just drains you. Or your kid's soccer meet always goes into overtime. Recognize these days and plan accordingly.

Some days, you might not get ANYTHING done. And the sooner you accept that, the more successful you will be at knocking out your to do list.  The more realistic your to do list is, the better your chances of executing it. Period. 

It all comes back to planning for your actual energy levels. Your obligations,  appointments, and schedule affect your productivity.

Learn how to manage the humans in your life.

tame your crazy to do list for good

This is something we don't talk about enough. The people in your life can wreak total havoc on your to do list. It is always so frustrating to read blog posts about productivity that talk about how you have to say "no" more.

As if it's that simple, right? Your kid walks up to you the night before their paper is due (that you didn't even know existed) asking for help. And you're supposed to say "no". It's not realistic. Frankly, it's insulting to say that you're failing at your goals because you don't say "no" enough.

Now, I am not saying you should say "yes" to everything. Of course, if you have a big goal, you want to cut your other commitments. But, you need to figure out how to efficiently manage how others will impact your goals.

Not sure where to start with this? Read this post on how I check in with my husband every week. 

Scheduling your tasks according to your real life is the best thing you could ever do for your goals. It's the difference between being a planner and a goal crusher. And we can all use a reality check, now and again, right?

Use Your Planner. EVERY DAY.

One of the main reasons people fail to check off their to dos, is that they're not looking at their list. We've all struggled with this. You planned your perfect day and then never bothered to actually look at your planner.

It should be something you reference often throughout the day. If you have a digital to do list, schedule notifications to ensure you're keeping up with it. And if you're using a paper planner, you need to create a habit of always referencing it and leaving it open for you to see. Need help remembering to use it? Read this post on creating a habit!

How are you spending your precious time?

When you have so little of each day for yourself, it becomes even more important to spend that time well. Rank your to do list to crush the things that really need doing. 

Checking off a bunch of small items may make you feel more productive in the moment. But, you may wonder why, 6 months later, you never got that book written or that mudroom built. It's because the small stuff distracts us from the big. 

Stay focused. If you have a big goal, you need to hit your targets for that goal before you do anything else each day. 

Trim the Fat.

If you have 20 items on your to do list for any given day, you are setting yourself up for failure. Overachievers are known for this. We are so ambitious we often bite off more than we can chew. It usually results in sinking disappointment. You feel like a failure when you "fail" to check everything off your list. 

To Do List Truth: If you chip away at everything every day, you will take FOREVER to finish ANYTHING. It is better to get one major project done a month than to chip away at 6 projects for 6 months and never finish one. 

I try to focus on a Top 3. Often my to do list only has one item because I theme my days. So, today's list is simply, "Write Blog Posts." That's all I'm accomplishing today. And it's perfect. I am relaxed and focused and getting a lot of writing done. 

The best way to ensure the big stuff gets done is to batch your tasks.

Some people do this by theming the days of the week, so every day is dedicated to a specific kind of work (a great example of this is my cleaning schedule). A typical week might look like this:

This works best for people who do the same type of work each week. Theming doesn't have to be a weekly process. For those whose work is more project based, theme your month instead.

The added benefit to theming your days is that batching your tasks is the most efficient way to get stuff done. It allows you to focus better because you're not switching tasks constantly. You will get more done!

Focus will set you free. 

If you need a little help with figuring out where to focus your energy each week, I made you a worksheet!

Now, it will take time to get used to cutting down your to do list and having one big goal for each day. It can be uncomfortable to not look at everything or to put projects on hold until their designated day. It felt a little scary at first, but it has been a serious game changer. I am completing my to do list every day and it feels great. I'm actually accomplishing more than I was before!

This removes all the pressure of an endless list of things to do and allows me to sink into what really matters. And that's what designing your life is all about. 

Have you tamed your to do list? Tell us how you get stuff done on our Facebook Page!

xo Katie