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Nov 22

Tackling the Mile-Long To-Do List

by Michelle Santaferraro

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Do you have a to-do list that is a mile long? Do you find it to be a laundry list of things you need to do both personally and professionally? How do you get a long to-do list under control? I have found that probing a bit more about what is on the list may help you wrangle it in.  You could try to recategorize the items you have listed under these categories:

Priorities
What are truly the priority items that are on your list?  They could be those items that are part of your job description or business objectives, they could be goals you have set that relate directly back to what you value.  The priorities need to be delineated from the rest of your actionable items.

Reminders
What are the things on your list that are simply reminders? These are the items like updating the shot records for your pet, changing the oil, or changing house filters. If these items are triggered by a season of the year (e.g. house filters), then a calendar could be used for these reminders. I like to put the maintenance schedule on the machine itself if I can.  I go so far as making labels for the inside of my windshield for a needed oil change or a sticker on the water filter.

Shoulds
What are the things on your list that you feel you should do?  Is there an item on your list because you want to repay someone?  They did something nice for you and you want to reciprocate. These are the things that would be ‘nice’ to do, but you may or may not get to them. These things might represent obligations. If you have postponed them for some time, it may mean that you need to give yourself permission to let them drop off the list.

Delegated Opportunities
What are the things on the list that could be delegated?  There may be some items that would be better to outsource because someone else has the tools and expertise to accomplish them quickly.  Are there items that could be delegated to a house cleaner, dog sitter or virtual assistant? Maybe your children or a family member could take some of this load off you.

Errands
Do you find some of the items are simply errands you need to run? If you group these errands based upon location, you can knock some of them off at the same time.  Some errands involve returning items to a store or a friend. Stage these items in the trunk of your car. Then, make a quick note in your phone or on a 3”x 5” card listing the places you need to go so you can be triggered to remember.

Other Solutions to Break Down Long Lists:

Tried and True
Create a daily to-do list from your Master List.   Stephanie Winston, a veteran in our organizing industry, encourages folks to use the master list as a “reservoir … in which you capture everything you have to do.”  Then, she encourages a Daily List that pulls from the Master List – just 10 things. The Daily List becomes your “working daily action guide,” says Stephanie.

Bottom Line
Separate the list the way Alan Brown of ADD Crusher talks about it. Use his lighthearted approach in categorizing “the thing I’m doing now” from the “important thing that I am NOT doing now” and the “BS stuff that I’m NOT doing now” to approach this long laundry list of actionable items.

The 1-2-3 Approach
This approach can break it down into manageable portions.  Julie Bestry, CPO, with Best Results Organizing, gives this numeric solution to oversized to-do lists.  She has her clients identify one big task, two medium-sized tasks, and three small tasks for each day (it could also be for the week). She identifies a big task as a task that will make major progress toward an important goal or it will take some significant time, effort and/or attention. You can find the 1-3-5 Approach online as well.  It works on multiple devices to make it easy to capture what you need to do no matter where you are.

You don’t have stare in overwhelm when it comes your long to-do list.  Whether it is categorizing what type of actionable items you are dealing with or utilizing the simpler sorting of doing a Master list and a Daily List.  Whichever one resonates with you, there is an answer for your mountainous list.

Posted in Personal Productivity