Sometimes, to-do lists can get out of control—longer and longer—leaving you feeling overwhelmed. It can become difficult to keep track of all the things that have to get done. How often do you find yourself saying, “Oh, I forgot to do…”?
It’s understandable that people forget things: there’s so much going on. Work projects, running errands, getting the kids to school, sports and music practice, and taking care of the house. It seems impossible to keep it all straight.
Part of the problem is people load their to-do lists with way too many things. Small things, big things, important things, not-so-important things. How does anyone capture them all in the to-do list without getting overwhelmed?
Here are 5 strategies for managing your to-do lists that will help you get everything done:
1. Make a master list.
Instead of putting everything that has to get done on your to-do list and totally overwhelming yourself, capture everything that has to get done in a master list. My last master list had nearly 70 items on it. From the master list I can make a to-do list of two or three items. That’s it. It’s far more manageable and less exhausting than looking at a list of 10 or 15 things every day and wondering how they’re going to get done.
2. Don’t let the items on your to-do list take up more than 65% of your work day.
When you do that, you’ve made room for interruptions, unexpected projects, or emergencies. If you finish your to-do items quickly, simply go back to the master list and get one or two more things to do.
3. Make sure you’re pulling the most important items from your master list.
When you make a to-do list that includes everything you need to get done, the temptation is very high to do the fun, quick things first while the hardest (and usually most important) things keep getting pushed to tomorrow…and the next day…and the next after that. Before you know it, weeks, months, and sometimes even years slip by and the projects haven’t gotten done.
4. Write your to-do list for tomorrow at the end of today.
If you know exactly what you’re going to work on when you get to work, you save yourself from wasting the first 30 minutes or hour at the beginning of the day. You won’t have to think about what to-do, and you minimize the chances of being distracted by other things. Get going immediately and build momentum.
5. Use this process at home and at work.
People tend to separate work and home, using productivity tools at the office but forgetting about them in their personal lives. They’re just as valuable! Here are a few simple things you can ask yourself: Is the garage still a mess? Can you walk around in your basement? How many projects are left undone at home? Deadlines at work create an urgency that we often don’t have at home. Your master list and to-do list at home will help you accomplish everything you want to.
Put your new approach to your to-do list in place this week. Tell me in the comments how it impacted your productivity as well as your mindset.