What To Do With Your To-Do Lists
Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of daily tasks on your plate?
Does it sometimes feel like you're drowning in emails and buried under all the hats you wear?
This is a common challenge I help my clients tackle as a professional coach. I teach a class called, "The Time Management Myths", and here is the first myth we bust:
The concept of "Time Management" - You can't manage the clock!
So what CAN you manage?
Your efforts, your boundaries and how you organize.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to organizing. Each client has a unique way of thinking and processing. My job is to help them figure out what organizing method works best for them and their lifestyle. Some are balancing babies, budgets and businesses. Some are taking on executive duties, mentoring colleagues and volunteering for more committees than they can juggle.
And then some of my clients are Property Managers, one of the toughest and most thankless jobs - non-stop slews of emails, fires to put out at all hours, and homeowners or renters who never seem to be satisfied no matter what you do!
How you organize is vital to how successful and happy, I said it - Happy - you are.
"I never knew I needed a coach until I showed up at our first session at Panera and I had my famous 'to do lists' but they were scattered everywhere. Our first action item was to create one to do list and simplify- and I thought I was the most organized person, what an eye opener!" -C.B.
While nothing takes the place of a focused one-on-one coaching session, I thought I might try and ease your load with some tips and tools that have proven helpful to my clients and in my own challenges as a sometimes hyper-organized and sometimes all-over-the-place type of gal.
Dump List to Focused List
Have you ever reached the end of your day, staring at a long To-Do list, and asked yourself:
"What the Heck did I accomplish!?"
Endless To-Do lists only leave us feeling constantly defeated. It is best to simplify.
Here's how it works:
1- On one page list out everything you have to do including personal - this too often gets neglected from the list. I like to use one color pen for the work stuff and a different color for personal. List out everything you have on your plate to tackle. This will be your Master Dump List. It is vital to getting those swirling worries out of your head and onto a page. (Also helps you sleep better.)
2- Then take the very next 3 things you are going to work on and write them on a separate page - your Action List.
3- From that Action List, focus on ONE thing, ONE action at a time, until it is DONE.
4- Then, guess what you get to do - Check It Off! Win!
5- When you are done with your 3 items, go back to the Master Dump List, scratch those out and choose your next 3 things to focus on. Don't neglect to include your personal items as well.
At the end of the day, you are looking at a list of checked-off accomplishments instead of a failure list mocking your weary soul. Happiness hinges on accumulating little wins everyday.
Turn Off The Notifications!
This one is probably the toughest for my clients. I get it! You don't want to miss a thing. Fires can be going on at any time. Your boss doesn't let you "disconnect" in case a client needs emergency heart surgery! Wait - you aren't a surgeon? Nobody is actually going to die on your operating table today? Guess what then - you can afford to turn your notifications off for a little bit of time. Even my brother, Doctor Gonzalez, does.
Notifications and calls distract us from what we are working on, even tiny dings shift our focus momentarily. The brain can take up to 20 minutes to refocus once it has been distracted from a task. 20 minutes!
Think about how much effort is wasted every time you allow a ding from Outlook or your phone to distract you from the task at hand. Isn't it better to save that time and effort by just focusing on ONE thing at a time? Multi-tasking being a high-valued quality is another Huge Myth that has already been busted by scientists. It is not good for the brain or your ROI.
Close the dozen windows you normally have open, unless it is pertinent to the task at hand, focus on the work in front of you, get it done, check it off, and move on.
Use Auto Reply
This one is another major Game-Changer I learned from Tim Ferriss. If you really want to focus, you have to disconnect from the people who are sometimes just trying to suck up your time.
Auto-Replies can help. Try something like:
"I am currently working on a project and not responding to calls or emails for the next hour. I will be checking emails again at ______. If this is VERY urgent (emphasis on VERY), you may call my cell phone... or call so-and-so..."
"I am currently in a meeting and will be responding to emails again at..."
"I am currently inspecting properties and away from my desk..."
Auto-Replies can be a vital tool if used properly. You say when you will be responding and therefore you set your times for checking emails and taking calls, especially if they are actually NOT that urgent. People trying to reach you get instant acknowledgement and a sense of when they can expect you to circle back.
I even have an auto-reply text message on my business phone line. I love it!
Own your schedule. Own your happiness.
Finally, here are some tools I have found valuable when trying to stay organized and especially if you lead a team or even your household. Keep everyone coordinated and productive:
1- Todoist https://todoist.com/
This is a great app for your mobile and desktop that will help you keep track of tasks in different categories (i.e. committee, household, personal, even shopping list) and add shared users. When either user is checking things off, it instantly notifies the others. I especially love this one for my household items. When my husband remembers to give the dog her eyedrops, he checks it off the Todoist list, I get an instant notification on my watch "task completed", and I don't have to worry about it. This is also great if you manage teams or have people who report directly to you. Save the email traffic about tasks that need to be done by instead having a shared Todoist list. They will see if you add something that needs attention and you will see when they have completed it.
2- Outlook Calendar https://www.office.com/
Schedule your activities and even your breaks into your Outlook calendar.
Heck! Schedule in Self-Care Time! You are more likely to keep your date with yourself this way.
You can also set reminders in your Outlook Calendar for future tasks and follow ups.
3- One Note https://www.onenote.com/
I wrote most of my first book using this app. It is great for note taking, meeting minutes, vacation planning or even your big work projects. I helped one of my clients create a company SOP Manual using this tool. You can share notebooks, easily search keywords to find a document or list, create "sticky notes", and access it from your mobile or desktop.
I tend to use a combination of these. I do love paper and pen, but technology is also my friend.
You may need to try some different methods, mix and match until you find what works for you. As I said before, organizing for success is not a one-size-fits-all.
Like new shoes - try some on, walk around in them for a bit, and see what feels right for you.
I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to shoot me an email or comment below about your thoughts and experiences with these. If you need a little more personalized attention, schedule a free coaching consultation with me here:
Mitch Savoie Hill, "Engagement Expert", is a Certified Professional Coach, TEDx Speaker, and DISC Certified Trainer, as well as the CEO of SavHill Consulting LLC. With over 25 years of experience in Sales, Hospitality, Training and Leadership, she delivers engaging and energetic presentations for any company or group wanting to clarify their vision, map out strategies and Stretch Their Horizons!
To find out how you can more effectively engage your clients or teams, and attain your goals despite roadblocks, Schedule a Coaching or Corporate Training Consultation today -