Can you recite your current top 3 to-dos? What about your #1 priority? Do you know the #1 priority for your spouse, and would you two agree? If the answer is no, let this blog guide you to a resolution on how to manage to dos.
To-dos can be overwhelming. We seem to constantly have lists of things to do, sometimes written in multiple places around the house, or stored in the deep recesses of our brain. We have to-dos for our kids, our family, our house, our businesses.
How in the heck do we manage all of this so that it doesn’t become completely debilitating?
In this blog post, I’m going to talk about 7 techniques that you can implement to help make your to-dos less of a burden, and more of a smart system that you are proud of!
#1 – Pick A System That Will Help You Manage To Dos
First thing’s first – pick a system! If you don’t have a place to capture your to-dos, it can be very confusing and disorienting. For example, I use Google Keep to capture all of my to-dos. If I think of something I need to do, I type it into a note on Keep. You can read more about how I use the Keep in My Top Time Management Tips blog post. We also have mini Google Homes in the kitchen and living room; that way, if I think of something, I can just say “Hey Google, remind me to ____”. Google will record that reminder in my Google Calendar. Next time I open my calendar, I can put that to-do into Keep.
Let’s be honest, sometimes we’re cooking dinner, or chasing kids around, or heading out the door, and we just need to shout our to-do in the air and have it captured! You could also get this feature with an Alexa or Siri on your phone.
#2 – Capture & Manage To Dos In One Place
This one can be tough, but I really encourage you to stick with it. Make sure ALL of your to-dos end up in the same place. As I shared above, sometimes I shout to-dos at my Google Home, or sometimes I jot it quickly on a post-it note, but by the end of the day, ALL of those to-dos end up in Google Keep on my list. That way, I have a running list of everything that needs to get done. I don’t have them scattered all over. This greatly reduces stress, because I can clearly see all of my to-dos in one place when I go to plan my day.
#3 – Manage To Dos by Categorizing
It’s important to categorize your to-dos. To-dos come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are quick phone calls, some of them are part of larger projects, some of them are emotionally-dreaded tasks, some of them are fun! some of them are errands. I like to group them by type. That way, if I’m going to be out running errands, I can see all of the errands I need to accomplish in one glance. Or, if I’m sitting down to make some calls, I can just go down the line and get in the “zone” of making calls. It helps to consolidate your tasks by type because our brains are wired to be in that mode, and we can move more smoothly through our tasks.
Another way to categorize is by “emotion”. I know that sounds a little woo-woo, but stick with me. If you have your to-do list nearby, grab it and read through each item, and gauge your emotional reaction. There are tasks that make me nervous or anxious, and there are also tasks that excite me that I want to do right away! Then, there are tasks that sound boring or annoying. Note how you feel, and see if you can group them by emotion. Sometimes, delegating emotional tasks to our partners can help immensely because they might not feel the same emotional trigger tied to that to-do. When I realized this and started off-loading some of the emotional to-dos to my husband, it was a game-changer.
#4 – Pick 3 Things as You Manage To Dos
Now you have a system for capturing to-dos, and you have them categorized so you can see everything clearly…now what? How are we going to do things? First and foremost, I am a HUGE believer in picking just 3 things to focus on. Your top 3 priorities. Three is a reasonable number, it’s not too daunting, and it allows you to really get focused on your priorities. Pick 3 items to focus on, and do not move forward until they are complete. Oftentimes, we get distracted and start moving all over the place only to end the day feeling like we got nothing accomplished. Pick 3 things, and then slot when you’re going to do them (i.e., a phone call to bank in the AM, drop donation bags after school pick up, and respond to emails at night after dinner).
If you haven’t read my blog post about block scheduling, click here to read and learn more about how to structure your day!
#5 – Automate When Possible
Take a minute to audit your to-do list. Can you automate some things on your list? For example, paying bills. Opening mail. Doing laundry. Cleaning the playroom. You can put your bills on autopay, set your snail mail to e-delivery, do one load of laundry a day, and do a nightly tidy with your kids before bed to ensure the playroom gets cleaned. Thus, you do not need to “list” out these to-dos, because they become automated practices. I believe your to-do list should be reserved for things like call the insurance company about billing errors, order cake for a birthday party, book a flight for a family vacation. Things that need to be accomplished, but not on a routine or automated basis.
#6 – Share With Your Household
I think teamwork in a household is crucial to having a happy and joy-filled home life. Having said that, I share my to-do lists with my husband through Google Keep and I think it is super important to have a team mentality when it comes to projects and getting things done. If you have older children in your household, and they have phones or tablets, I think sharing certain lists with them is appropriate as well. Then, go a step further beyond sharing, and have a weekly discussion about these lists (see My Top Time Management Tips blog post to learn more about weekly meetings!). Touch base, see what you can do-delegate-or delete, and offer support if your team members are struggling with certain tasks. We need everyone on board with regard to doing things since running a household is a team effort.
#7 – Delete!
This is probably my favorite tip – delete! Do you have to-dos that have been lingering on your list for weeks or months? You just can’t do them? Then delete it! It’s clearly not that important, or it’s not an ideal time to work on that to-do. Perhaps you can move the to-do off your list, and set it as a reminder in your calendar for 3 months out. You can revisit that to-do with a fresh perspective. You could also move the to-do to an “archive” list in your to-do tracking system. From time to time, you can check on that list and see if there’s anything you want to resurrect.
And there you have it! 7 helpful techniques that you can start implementing today to make your to-do list way less overwhelming. I’d love to hear about your favorite tip in the comments below!