Master Your To Do List, Part 1: The Basics

Do you arm yourself with a detailed to-do list everyday or do you jot down what needs to be done and hop for the best?  If you're in the latter camp, then I'm betting you get to the end of the day (or week) and feel discouraged at not completing some important tasks on your list.  If that's you, then I'm here to help!  Today, we'll be talking about the basics of how to master your to do list!

We live in a busy world with a lot of things grabbing at our time every day. 

go here…do this…don’t forget that...pick this up...drop that off...call so-and-so...email that person...on and on and on

AHHHHHH….it’s enough to make your head explode!

The key to getting things done and having down time to watch your favorite show with your favorite guy (and not feel guilty about it!) is mastering your to-do list.

I take my to-do list very seriously.  It’s how I know what needs to be done and how to allocate my time.

I take time every single Sunday to plan out my week so I hit the ground running on Monday morning.  You can read about how I plan this out HERE if you need some ideas.

Without my task list, I’d be lost and nothing would get done!

So, I thought it’d be helpful to share with you how I create my to-do list and manipulate it to work to my advantage!

What your To-Do List Should NOT Be

Most people that are drowning in too many things to do and they make a to do list with the best of intentions.  They write down everything they need to do for the day and hope for the best.

I hate to discourage you, but this is the best way to set yourself up to fail!  Having a list is a great start (so kudos for taking that first step!), but to really use your list to your advantage, you need to take it a step further.

Must Do’s, Need to Do’s, and Maybe Do's

Let’s face it, we all have too much to do on any given day.  I live alone, so I don’t have a live-in partner (i.e. husband/boyfriend/whatever), nor do I have kids and I STILL don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done.  I can’t even imagine how much more chaotic it is for those with kids and spouses and pets and everything that comes with those lovely additions to your life.

So, with that in mind, the first thing you need to embrace...

Every item on your list does not have the same importance or priority.

Sounds basic enough, right?  But so many people, create their list and then just start at the top and try to tick each item off with no plan for attack (or they start with the easiest/quickest/most fun item and go from there).  

If you want to get more done each day, you need to organize your list based on what’s most important.

Go ahead and write down that master list of everything you need to accomplish.  Now, take a sip of coffee and a deep breath (not at the same time, obviously!) and re-evaluate your list.

What are the things that absolutely must get done?  What are the things that are okay to slide if there’s just not enough time?

That last question leads me to the second thing you need to embrace...

It’s okay to not cross off everything on your to-do list by the end of the day.

For you type-A, go-getters, I know that idea makes your palms a little sweaty and you might even get a twitch or two, but I promise…it’s OKAY!

While there's no right or wrong method, I like to break my list into three categories:
1. Must Do's
2. Need to Do's
3. Maybe Do's

Must Do Items

Your  Must Do Items  are those that affect your business/job, finances, or health.  These are the things that affect you in long term.  These are the non-negotiables.  If you don't pay your bills, you get into a heap of trouble.  If you don't call a key client back, you lose out on a huge deal.  You get the picture...

You might want to slide your workout to the ‘Maybe Do’ category (or, let's be honest, right on off the list!), but being healthy and getting in some physical movement every day will affect you in the long run and in the short run, it will give you more energy to tackle the rest of your list.  So, make time for it!!

Need to Do Items

Your  Need to Do Items  are things that need to be addressed in the short term, but if they don't get done today, it won't be the end of the world.  You’ll likely have time to knock some of these off your list since your ‘Must Do’s’ normally won’t take your entire day (there may be some days where they do and that’s okay!).  

Maybe Do Items

And finally your  Maybe Do Items  are the small things that if they don’t get done today, or tomorrow (or even next week), it’s okay and not a big deal.  These are the things that slide when you get home late and you're too exhausted to fold the laundry.  I promise, it'll be okay if it sits there for another day (or two!).

What goes where?

You might be asking yourself, what goes in each category?

There’s not a one-sized fits all answer here…what’s important to one person may not be important to another (except those things that directly impact your job/business, finances, or health!).  For example, ‘wash the car’ is something I’m happy to put on my 'Maybe Do' list, but for some people, having a nice clean car is super important, so for them, that might legitimately be on their ‘Need to Do’ list.  

I typically find it easy to pick out my ‘Must Do Items’ and my ‘Maybe Do Items’.  So, I start with those, then everything else falls into my ‘Need to Do’ Items.

Time for Yourself & Your Dreams

As busy as we are, it’s super important to not forget about yourself in the craziness of each day.  This is so important to our happiness and self worth!

Some of you might consider your physical activity or workout your time for you.  Or, maybe you want to get up an hour earlier than everyone else to have some solo time first thing in the morning to write in your journal, read, meditate, or whatever makes you happy! 

While you may have some days here and there that are just too busy to sneak in that time, I encourage you to try to make this a priority and at the very least, make sure you have at least one of these on your ‘Need to Do’ list each day. 

It’ll help to keep you from burning out and being a frazzled mess!

Blocking off time in your calendar is a great way to remind yourself that you are just as important as everyone and everything else on your list!

As I’ve mentioned before, to make your dreams a reality, you have to plan for them and make time for them.

You should aim to do something every single day to make this happen!  Some days it might be something big, other days, it might be something very small.  That’s okay!  The size of the task isn’t as important as the fact that you are actively doing something, so be sure to add that to  your ‘Need to Do’ list (if not your ‘Must Do’ list since it will directly impact your health, future, and possibly finances!).

Techniques & Tools of the Trade

On Wednesday, I’m going to pick up where we’re leaving off today to show you several techniques for implementing this idea of mastering your to-do list!  I’ll share a few tips for not forgetting what you didn’t finish each day, some ideas for how to manage your time, and I’ll share a few of my favorite time management tools to get you started!

Read Part 2: Tools & Techniques

Your turn, friends...are you a to-do list fan, or do you tend to fly by the seat of your pants? Leave me a comment and let me know!