While I’m not the most organized person on the face of the planet, to-do lists have always given me much-needed structure. Taking time to make myself a daily to-do list has been super beneficial for me here at The Get Smart Group, especially in 2020. By the end of the year, however, it started to spiral out of control. For good reasons, of course – The Get Smart Group grew exponentially last year. And we have many exciting things coming our way for at-home recreation and home improvement marketing.
All these new things, however, meant a much longer to-do list than I’ve ever had. Suddenly, my tried-and-true method of making a to-do list just wasn’t working anymore. How am I supposed to remedy that? Well, I found a couple of solutions that have worked in the interim, and I decided to share. Here’s how I let go of my to-do list and found a new way of getting things done.
Tip #1: Let It Go, Let It Go, Don’t Make To-Do Lists Anymore
I love to-do lists. I’ve loved to-do lists for a very long time. When overwhelmed with work and assignments – both past and present – there’s always something soothing about breaking down the crazy into actionable tasks. It’s like folding a messy pile of laundry, but better. Why? I don’t even like folding laundry, but oh, is it satisfying when I do. Do you know what’s even more satisfying? Checking off items on your to-do list.
That feeling is hard to beat. But what happens when, no matter what you try, your to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer? When you’ve checked off two tasks only to see there are five more? Suddenly the one thing that was supposed to keep you from feeling overwhelmed has become the thing that keeps you overwhelmed. (Say that ten times fast.) What a sensation. And it’s not a good one.
It reached a point where I was spending nearly an hour at the start of my workday organizing the things I needed to do. My calming ritual of taking 10-20 minutes to go over everything and prioritize was long gone. I realized I needed a new way of organizing my thoughts and tasks. The old way just wasn’t working. So, I decided to let go of how I used to write to-do lists and brainstormed other ways of creating one.
Tip #2: What To-Do if I Didn’t Have You
So how are you supposed to stay on task without a to-do list? Well, frankly, I’m not sure. There are lots of ways to go about it. The article “How to Be More Productive Without a To-Do List” by Dan Albright from Make Use Of, an online technology publication, gives a few tips that I liked. Albright notes “…to-do lists can become a major tool of procrastination.” And boy, that line hit me hard because it’s true. I was spending more time making a to-do list rather than doing what was actually on it. Very counterproductive, for sure.
While some of the suggestions included big picture items – like building better work habits and shifting your to-do list to your calendar – I needed a short-term solution to get me through an overwhelming day. Two useful tips from this article for the short-term I recommend: the three-item to-do list and the two-minute rule.
- The Three-Item To-Do List: this one is easy. You just put three items on the list. That’s it.
- The Two-Minute Rule: to sum up, if the task takes two minutes or less, don’t put it on the list. It’s just not worth the ink.
These two solutions are useful for an extra busy day because a) you’re more focused on the big tasks (which probably have priority anyway) and b) you’re not wasting time and energy worrying about little tasks. Once you take care of the big projects, you can circle back to them and just do them. Or, before you tackle the big projects, you quickly do the smaller tasks to get them out of the way, much like when you’d do your easy homework before doing the harder assignments in school.
Yes, you’re still kind of making a to-list in this case, but it encourages you to prioritize. And let’s be frank, even without your to-do list, you probably have some big looming projects on your mind, anyway. If they are stressing you out the most, they deserve to be on your three-item to-do list.
Tip #3: Tomorrow, Tomorrow, To-Do List Tomorrow
“But…didn’t you just say to let go of your to-do list?” Well, yes. Kind of. I mainly meant to let go of the old way of writing to-do lists. i.e., writing it before I’ve actually done anything. And then there was that tricky situation where I needed a catchy subhead … you get it. Despite needing to change things up, I remain a creature of habit. I still need to-do lists to prioritize and stay organized.
Instead of starting my workday making a to-do list (unless it’s just a quick three-item list of projects I need to focus on), I’ve started making my to-do list at the end of the day. As work winds to a close, I set aside a few minutes to go over what I’ve gotten done as opposed to what still needs to be done. Did I load those hot tub ads into Facebook? Yes! Check. Did I follow up with that client on social media posts? Yes! Check. Did I get around to writing the email broadcast on that pool sale? Oops, nope! And that’s okay. Everything that I didn’t get done today is at the start of tomorrow’s to-do list.
Voila! I’ll have tomorrow’s to-do list waiting for me the next morning when I plop myself down at my computer. No more agonizing for over an hour and exhausted at the start of my workday. I can just dive right into that email broadcast first thing.
Tip #4: Look at These Accomplishments
Another thing I’ve been doing on a more personal level is writing an Accomplishment List at the end of my day. (This is Becca here … did you really think I’d end this blog without sharing something a wee bit personal?)
Just a very simple, “Today I accomplished…” And then, I list out the tasks I accomplished, both big and small, and check them off. Did the dishes? Check! Did a load of laundry? Check! Snuggled with both of my kitties? Double-check! Rather than staring at things I didn’t accomplish, I read over the things I did. It’s given me a boost of positivity that 2021 already needs.
Wondering what The Get Smart Group can accomplish for your business? We specialize in at-home recreation, home improvement, pool & spa marketing … we’ve got a little something for everyone. We believe in doing more; let’s see what we can do for you. Reach out to us today for a free consultation!
(Bonus track: Can you name the songs that inspired the subheads in this blog post? It gets a little harder with each one. Your only prize is bragging rights.)