DISCLAIMER: I tried doing a post like this once before and totally failed it since, ironically, I didn’t manage my to-do lists well enough and had no time to actually write it well. So here I am again, taking pen to paper (before taking fingers to keys) to write about one of my favourite things to do to sort out my life—make to-do lists.
I often say this when people ask me about the meaning of our lives here on Earth:
We are the sum of our experiences.
Your memories won’t come from the things you own, but the things that you do. But while we might want to do everything under the sun in our lifespans, we must also remember that certain resources are very finite to us: Energy; Time; Willpower—these are but a few examples of why we don’t just do anything and everything we want to do at all times.
And that, my friends, is why you must master the art of the to-do list!
I personally suffer from “listmaniasis”, where I’ve created so many to-do lists (likely with some duplicate items) that it’s hard to know what there is to do, what’s a priority and where it is I should start.
It’s easy to figure out what you need to do when deadlines are looming in your face (as we saw before in my series on prioritization). But how do you manage those “nice-to-dos”? You know, those things where it would be nice to do them—EVENTUALLY — but if you don’t get to them for a while, it’s all good?
You have a few approaches you can take:
1. DO YOU NEED TO DO IT?
Nice-to-dos, by their nature, should be things that are OPTIONAL. (If anything there isn’t optional, guess what? It’s a MUST-DO! Different list!) These are things that you feel will improve your life if done, but not hinder it if they remain incomplete.
To-do lists can become long and jumbled with our needs and wants. Take a moment to review what you’ve jotted down, and see if there’s anything that you either no longer need to do, or have ALREADY done.
2. MAKE THEM MATTER
You could always place more importance on them than you might have initially. Suppose there’s a movie you really want to see, someone you should really reconnect with, or a corner of the room that really needs organizing. What’s stopping you from doing it??? Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a powerful kick in the butt to get things done, simply because we become so laissez-faire about completion.
3. FIGURE OUT THE ROI
What’s the return on the investment for these tasks? We’re not only talking money here—it could be an investment of time, skills or existing resources, such as donating old clothing.
What effects will completing the task have on your life? Perhaps through completing a nice-to-do, it will make a must-do FAR easier.
Example: Learning how to use Photoshop might make that Father’s Day collage a lot easier to pull off.
4. MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE
The problem with having too many to-do lists is that they can get lost in the shuffle. If I had to think of where I’d stored some, I would guess:
- In my Google Docs
- In my Gmail task list
- Across hard drives
And as for formats?
- Scribbled notes
- Text files
- Mind maps
It’s ludicrous how fragmented my overall list is. Start your list in ONE PLACE. KEEP IT THERE. Your sanity will thank you.
5. REWARD YOURSELF
We’re all a little selfish, right? When you get something on your to-do lists done, you should think about giving yourself a reward proportional to the effort that was required.
It’s positive reinforcement—by rewarding yourself, you’ll be promoting the habit of getting things done since you can expect to receive something good afterwards.
I know it’s a bit like how you teach things to a child, but what are we but adult versions of our child selves?
So while it might not be the end of the world if some of those items on your to-do list don’t get done, it’ll often BETTER your world if you DO.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some of the tools I’ve used to construct my to-do lists, what I put on them, and what I hope to get out of them—hopefully, you can relate and learn something from yours!