To Do Lists Demystified

Plan how to spend your time this year!

Plan how to spend your time this year!

Happy New Year! This time of year we hear lots of advice around goal setting, resolutions, and intentions. Visions aren’t realized and goals aren’t accomplished until you follow through on action items. The best place to keep track of these is a list!

The purpose of a to-do list is to clear our brains of all the ideas swirling around, creating clutter. Lists making can be as simple as jotting down items on a piece of paper or as complex as using a variety of electronic task managers and calendaring systems.

Regardless of the tools you choose, here are suggestions for list management:

Create a Master List. Consider creating a master list to hold all your projects and a daily or weekly list for priority items. Master lists provide a parking lot for a full brain-dump and allow you to categorize tasks either by priority or activity type or activity category.

Make time estimates. Making some rough time estimates on particular tasks helps you be realistic about where tasks will fit into your schedule. When you’re realistic about how long things take you have a much better chance of actually getting things done instead of leaving things half finished and feeling bad about it.

Time estimating is a learned skill that doesn’t come easy to everyone, so be patient with yourself but try to keep track of how long things take so you can make better estimates in the future. Break large tasks into smaller ones to be even more specific about time.

Review & prioritize. Make the time regularly to review your master list, review your available time and pull tasks to your daily or weekly to-do list. Regular review of your lists is essential to re-setting priorities. Seeing the list of things you want to accomplish can help motivate you to rearrange your schedule to create the time necessary to take action.

Say you want to get organized in 2015…what does that mean exactly?

Create a list of the specifics, for example one item may be “Turn grown children’s room into a craft room.” What does that mean exactly? Get even more specific:

  • Donate old bed
  • Clear out closet
  • Plan shelves for craft supplies
  • Research and shop for new furniture

 Now you have 4 specific tasks on the list that you can make rough time estimates for and schedule into your calendar. The more specific you are the more chance you have of getting your project accomplished because you can schedule the tasks when you have the time to do them.

Beware of perfectionism. While the need to review your lists is essential, beware of spending so much time managing complicated list systems that you never actually get something done!

Celebrate your success! No matter how small.  Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

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Filed under Decluttering, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Perspective

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