How To Make Sense of Your To-do List

You’ve got 50+ things on your to-do list. You’re feeling totally overwhelmed and don’t know where to start or how on earth you’re getting to get them all done.

You think you’re too busy to write a list, it’s a waste of time, you’d rather just get on with it, you could spend all your day planning instead of 'doing'.

However, it’s been proven that if you spend time getting to grips with your to-do list and planning your day, you’ll save yourself hours of wasted time and stress and have a more productive day.

Here’s how to make sense of your list, take control and feel less overwhelmed.

Start by writing everything down or at least gathering everything together in one place, especially if your tasks are scattered across multiple lists.

Admit you're not going to get all 50+ things completed today!

Break larger projects down into actionable tasks. What the first, smallest actionable step you need to take?

This next step takes a bit of time the first time. But the more often you do it and the more it becomes a habit, the quicker you become.

Go through each task:

  • What is the priority for this task - this will relate to the date needed - overdue, urgent, important … A simple 1, 2, 3; A, B, C; red, orange yellow (if you want to use colours), is enough to start prioritising your tasks.
  • When is it needed by? Today, tomorrow, this week, this month …? Don’t clutter up your list with tasks that don’t need to be completed until a later date. Add them to a future list or put them on your calendar so they pop up when needed.
  • Group similar tasks together - whether by type of task - phone calls, emails or by project or client. It’s quicker and more efficient to do similar tasks - make a few phone calls at the same time. Include information you need to complete the task - particularly phone numbers, links etc. One less thing you need to think about for the task.
  • Separate your tasks into categories - work, personal, chores. If it’s helpful use ‘project’ or ‘client’ categories so you get a better perspective on how your tasks relate to your workflow.
  • Set aside time in your day to actually complete the task - especially the high priority ones.

Keep your daily to-do list short. No more than the number of tasks you can actually achieve in a day. This could be as low as 3, ideally no more than 10. If you have too many tasks or you don’t complete them each day, reduce the number.

Review your new, shorter list throughout the day. If it’s working it will be guiding what you’re working on each day, if it’s not then you may need to rethink how you’re working or what you’re working on.

By the end of each day you will have checked off a number of tasks. Plan what you need to complete the following day.

Add new tasks as they come along and apply the same principles of prioritising, organising and scheduling in time for each task.

Purge your list regularly. The chances are some of the low priority tasks will naturally fall off the list or are no longer relevant.

Get in touch if you want to make more sense of your own to-do list.

No Shows And Missed Meetings

Now I know life gets in the way and we can't always allow for the unexpected.

It's frustrating when people take the time and effort to book, register or sign-up for sessions, seminars and workshops and just don't turn up. Whether it's free or they've paid upfront.

You're left wondering what happened. How long to wait before you give up or go and do something else.

What is it? Disorganisation, poor planning or over commitment?

What would make you miss an appointment, you've committed to, whether it was intentional or not?

When you make arrangements to meet someone or be somewhere - other people have made time in their day for you.

If you need to change your plans, let them know at the first and earliest opportunity. People will understand, sometimes it's unavoidable or you have a genuine reason for not showing up or missing a meeting.

Be honest. Respect their time so they can make other arrangements, change bookings, make adjustments or have time to do something else.

There's no excuse for not turning up and not letting someone know?

Do you find you're always saying yes to things and then for whatever reason you're not able to attend or have to let people down at the last minute? Or perhaps you simply forget because it's not written down or you just have too much on. It happens.

Be more realistic with your time. Plan ahead. Don't say "yes" or agree to a meeting when what you actually mean is "probably not". Better to make a tentative arrangement and confirm nearer the time than over commit or double book.

Don't get a reputation for being dis-organised or unreliable.