Does the length of your to-do list make you cringe? It’s time for a makeover. Make your digital task list a friend again.
The to-do list is the friend of the organized person. This tool serves as a magical steel trap for the plans we make. It outpaces the strongest memory. Whatever goes on the list stays there until it gets crossed off.
And that can be a problem
When items are added faster than they are checked off, that list grows. Those of us who keep our lists digitally are particularly prone to longer lists. Since adding tasks is so easy and we never have to re-write, our to-do list can grow to the point of being out of control. Some people abandon the whole idea of working from a to-do list because it’s such a toxic mess.
If you feel like this article describes you, let’s take control starting today. Grab your list and let’s begin to detox.
1. Check off what’s already done
If your list is so long that you haven’t looked at parts of it in a while, the chances are good that you did some of those things, yet they are still on the list. Removing the “done” tasks starts to shorten the list.
2. Mark off what you’re not going to do
Some of what is on the list sounded like a good idea at the time, but priorities and situations change. Take a cold, hard look at items that have been hanging around for months (or years) and decide if they are still worth your time and interest. If not, jettison them right now.
3. Hand off when possible
You can’t do everything, so play from your strengths. If something continues to ride on the list because you lack the time or skill, can you delegate it to someone else? Can you hire it done?
4. Reword what’s fuzzy
Sometimes tasks ride from month to month because you don’t know where to start. Let’s face it—we do what’s easy. If “Buy shoe strings” and “Build tree house for the kids” are both on your list, at the end of the day shoe strings will have been bought. You know where to get them, what they look like, roughly how much they cost, and how to install them. You can’t wait to do that one and check it off. “Build tree house” will be sitting there until the kids are grown. How could you get a start? Do you have a friend who built a treehouse already? Why not meet for coffee and pick his brain? Now the task looks like “Call Jim to schedule meeting for coffee.” That’s easy enough you’ll actually do it, and it kick-starts the process.
5. Plan your “when”
If you truly put all your to-dos on the list, the list will be long. It’s a sign of a rich life filled with opportunities, interests, and a reason for getting up in the morning. But you can’t do it all today. Be realistic about how much you can get done in a day. If you use a digital task list (Remember The Milk is my choice), assign a “due date” to each task. For me, the due date answers the question. “When do I want to see this task again?” This way, you are mapping not only your day, but the coming days, weeks, and even months.
Organization is a gift you give yourself
Your to-do list can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. It can hold your dreams or serve as a constant reminder of how far behind you are. It all comes down to how you use it. Use the 5 steps listed here to detox that to-do list.