Masterful Mindsets ~ Freedom from The Dreaded “TO DO” List

“Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.”  ~ Phillips Brooks


What does your To-Do list look like?  Does it seem to grow and grow with no end in sight? What do you use your To-Do list for?  Is it a list of your must do’s? Or is it as a reminder of the many things you’d like to get done but never seem to have the time for?  Are there things on your list that have been there forever?

Action Challenge:

Last week as we prepared to celebrate Independence Day here in the US, I asked you to think about what you wanted to break free from.

So today as I continue to answer questions about time management and organization, I want to talk about breaking free from the dreaded To-Do List.

Most of us have a To-Do list, yet rarely are they used in the right manner. More often than not, instead of creating organization, they create overwhelm. Why?

Because we become unclear about what a To-Do list is really to be used for. The lines get blurred and before we know it, the list grows out of control.

A To-Do list can easily become a catch all for everything you want to get done. When this happens, the list becomes frustrating and overwhelming because it feels that you are never making headway. Because of that, it’s important to have clarity regarding what your list is really for. So how do you do that? How do you get from overwhelmed to organized?

My challenge to you is to follow these steps to find freedom from your To-Do list:

  1. Write Everything Down – Sure, go ahead… write down everything you’d like to get accomplished this year, this month, this week… today.
  2. Prioritize the Items on the List – A true To-Do list should only contain things that MUST get done. So only things that are non-negotiable belong on this list. This is your Important-Urgent list. If it’s not important and urgent then it doesn’t belong on this list. Don’t worry, there’s a place for it… but it’s not here.
  3. This is when you make your other lists: *Ideal-Possible and **Dream Projects (You can call them what you want.) Basically, if the things on your list are not a high priority, then consider putting them on one of these lists. What this does is shorten your high priority To-Do list so that it’s manageable. But it still gives you a place to add tasks and projects so you don’t forget about them.

*The Ideal-Possible List should be used for those things that you’d like to get done. They are fairly important but they are not urgent. Just be careful here because if you don’t tend to the things on this list, they can become urgent. Once you’ve finished your high priority tasks each day, you can pull from this list. It’s a great way to add to your feeling of accomplishment.

**The Dream Project List is really just your wish list. These are things you’d like to get accomplished but they are not a must. For example, you may want to paint the bathroom but it’s not really a high priority so if you have to choose between time with family and friends or painting… well, that bathroom can wait. But if you do find yourself with some spare time or a wild surge of energy then you can jump right into one of the tasks on this list. (By the way, I did get my storage room cleaned out!) 😉

To help you evaluate where each item on the list belongs, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is this something non-negotiable that I must do? If not then is it something that can be delegated to another person or dumped all together?
  • Is this important and urgent enough to be a high priority? If it’s not then it likely belongs on a different list. (Getting clear on where each item belongs will help you create a plan for success.) If it doesn’t fall into this category, that doesn’t mean it’s not important to you. It just belongs on a different list.
  • Move anything that does not belong on the first list to one of the two other lists. Consider whether it’s Ideal and Possible or if it’s a Dream Project. Then add it to those respective lists.

Lastly, look back at your first list of important-urgent tasks and break it down into manageable daily tasks. Even if you have a large project at hand, try to keep your daily To-Do list to a maximum of 3 to 5 must-do tasks each day and schedule time for them. Once you’ve completed these important tasks, you can work your way down the other lists.

If you get your 3 to 5 priority tasks done you will instantly feel a sense of accomplishment. Then anything extra that you get done is an added bonus that leaves you feeling success instead of failure for having a huge list and only getting a few things done.

No matter how large or small your tasks are, it will feel so empowering to get done the things you must and not be so overwhelming to look at a long list that just grows and grows.  And be sure to mark completed tasks off your list after you get them accomplished.  There’s something very satisfying about putting that little check mark next to a completed task.

Here’s hoping you can find freedom from that dreaded to-do list!

***I want to hear from you… Share your comments about this week’s post below!