I have tried to work to a schedule, but at the moment there’s a lot going on. I’ve started a couple more projects (which is why it’s been a while since I posted), my other half is working irregular hours, and at 7 months pregnant I’m having to take things a little steadier. Which strangely also includes sitting down for too long (think I need a comfy office chair rather than a dining room chair!).
So I’ve been trying another technique, and so far it’s been working well. It’s the good old, tried and tested To-Do list. Nothing too revolutionary. But to get the best out of this way of working, there are a couple of techniques that I’ve found come in very handy.
Decide how and where your To-Do list should be
There are many ways to make your To-Do list these days. Are you going with the good old pen and paper list? Maybe on a whiteboard where you can’t miss it? Or download an app for you to use? Will it be handy on your phone, or keep it on your PC? These are all individual preferences depending entirely on how you work, and it doesn’t matter which you choose. But make sure you pick one, and stick to it. There is nothing worse than having 5 different To-Do lists, all with different things on them. Keep all your stuff to do in one place. Personally I’m an old school pen and paper kinda gal.
Keep an Ultimate, everything included To-Do list
This one is the monster list, with everything you can think of on there. List everything you need to get done, and also what you want to get done (rarely the same thing). Hopefully your list will be a long one, and you won’t be able to write everything down in one sitting.Whatever you think of and whenever you think of it, write it on the list. Make sure you include practical things and also personal projects and things you want to try for fun. It will get longer and longer, and may seem a little insurmountable and daunting at first, but this list is to make sure that nothing gets forgotten and nothing gets left behind.
Try to keep a rough order of priority, with the most important things going to the top. It’s not essential, but I would hate for ‘pay the bills’ to be hidden at the bottom, get missed for a few weeks and only come to light when the electricity is cut off.
Also try to break bigger jobs down to smaller pieces – don’t just put ‘Learn a language’ or ‘Write a novel’ – add a side notes of ‘Learn how to say hi’ or ‘write chapter 1’ , make it something specific and more manageable.
Three is the magic number
I used to have a boss who could only remember 3 things. Any more than that, and he’d forget the lot.
If you have a terrible memory, or you are an amazing procrastinator (like me!) then 3 is a good number to start with. Pick 3 things to tackle from your big to-do list, and write them on a separate list (I know I said to keep one list, but you’ll be looking at this one and won’t have chance to forget you wrote it). This is your working To-Do list, the one you are going to deal with today. Forget the rest, we’re going to focus on these 3.
Make sure you include anything from your Big List that has a deadline coming up (Like that electricity bill…), and pick anything else you want to get done. Try to give yourself a good mix of things to do – a bit of work and a bit of fun, a priority one and a just-for-the-hell-of-it one. Work through them and get them done. Also remember to do them well, don’t rush them, we’re forgetting about the rest and concentrating on getting these 3 done right.
If your list is full of easy quick things then you could maybe push it to 5. But no more! You don’t want to end up with a list you can’t deal with. We’re taking easy baby steps here…
Finished your three? Yay!
Rather than never getting to the end of your ultimate list and feeling unmotivated and deflated, you’ve given yourself the satisfaction of completing your mini list. Even if you don’t do anything else for the rest of the day, you can feel satisfied that you’ve got your first three things out of the way and you’ve achieved a little bit of something.
Don’t forget to cross them off your Big List too!
If you have time, pick another three
If you’ve finished your To-Do list by lunchtime and you want to crack on with some more, then by all means go ahead. Pick another three things, and work through those. Again, take your time and only think about the three on your list.
Don’t push yourself to get everything finished from your Big List in one day – If you’ve done this right and written down everything you would like to do, you will never get to the end of your big list. It will show that you have a rich and varied life, and have things you want to achieve.
And remember if you are picking three more then mix it up – if your first 3 were practical, make the next 3 indulgent and fun.
Once a week, have a clear out
Make sure you go through your Big To-Do list once a week to keep it up to date. There might be something you thought was on there that needs adding on, or something you no longer need to deal with that needs taking off. You might need to shop for a birthday present that wasn’t a priority last week, but you’ll be in the bad books if it doesn’t get done this week. Any big projects you’ve broken down, make sure the next part is on the list. Give things a shuffle around, change things as you need to, and then work from your new list for the next week.
Keep this going, picking another 3 little jobs from your list every day. Before you know it the list won’t seem quite so scary and you’ll be getting everything done that you want to do.