One of the biggest reasons people become overwhelmed when it comes to completing projects/tasks is from not planning effectively. Many people choose to make lists of things they need to accomplish, whether it be goals, tasks, projects, or events. That's a good start.
When I used to make lists, I would do so on a simple lined piece of paper. No title at the top to tell me what the list was, just a list, filling every line, in multiple columns...it was exhausting to look at. I'd create the list and keep adding to it all week, setting the goal to accomplish the tasks/projects on the weekend. By the time Friday rolled around, my list was huge and I had no idea where to start. I spent more time reading over the list to choose what to accomplish next, than I did actually accomplishing anything. (Sound familiar to anyone?)
The secret to great list making is simple...
You can also choose to categorize your lists by thinking of the following questions:
- Who? Who needs to complete the tasks or projects? (This is where delegating comes in handy!)
- What? What needs to be completed? What category can you place your tasks under?
- Where? What areas of your home or life do these tasks/projects belong to?
- When? When do the tasks/projects need to be completed by? You could always create monthly to-do lists for something like this. "When" lists can also be as simple as time of day or day of the week.
- Why? For some people, categorizing by the "why" (reason) they're completing the tasks/projects is more motivating. For example, a travel to-do list...the motivation is your vacation, the tasks are those that you must complete before going.
Each area that you chose needs it's own list. I have created some basic to-do lists for you to have for free. (Click the photo or caption below the photo to download.)
|organizing & cleaning to-do list|
|work to-do list|
Now that you've created your areas of focus, you can begin making your lists!
Here are some additional tips for list making:
- Categorize. If you don't have the need to create large lists like these, then you should at least categorize the smaller lists you have. It allows you to focus on one area at a time, and not become so easily overwhelmed.
- Prioritize. When I have projects on my list that I absolutely must complete ASAP, then I will highlight the tasks on the list. You can also use Post-It flags to accent what tasks you need to complete ASAP if you don't want to highlight.
- Laminate the lists. If you laminate your lists (or even just slip them inside a clear page protector), you can use a dry erase marker to write on the list and erase when your task is complete.
- Start with a clean list every month. At the end of every month, I start over with a fresh, clean list. If something has been sitting on my list for a whole month, I reevaluate whether or not the task is actually something I need to complete. If it is, I go and complete it right away (if I have the time). If I don't have the time to complete it, I write it on a Post-It note and put it on my PC. It's not worth it to keep "recycling" the same task over and over again each month and never complete it.
- Don't clutter your lists with daily or weekly tasks/routines. Only use your to-do lists for things that you need to accomplish presently, not things that you do every week anyways. Those tasks belong on a daily or weekly plan.
- Cross or check off what you've completed! It's a nice feeling to do this. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, especially when you look at your list and see all you've done throughout the month.
There are also several note taking apps for smartphones and tablets now. You could always use Evernote, Cozi, or any other note taking app you can find in the app market that works for you. You definitely won't ever lose your lists...unless you lose the password to your account.
I have a program on my PC called Sticky Notes that I've been using for the past week. I really like it because I have different color notes for different parts of my life. I can easily delete what I've done and add new tasks. The downside - no gratification for what you've accomplished. Sometimes it just seems like a never ending list and I forget how much I've actually done.
Using a planner or calendar is also an option for tasks/projects. This may be a good option for you if you're better at completing things if they have a "due date".
Storing your to-do lists is just as important as creating them. You don't want to create a list and then lose it - so you need to choose a place to store them. I keep mine on a clipboard on my desk. The only time they leave my desk (still on the clipboard) is when I'm going around the house, completing tasks. Find a place for your lists, and keep them in that specific place so you can always find them!
I was going to go in to planning tasks and delegating today, but this post seems long enough, so I'll be back this Wednesday with those two topics!
Are you a list maker? How do you keep everything straight without becoming overwhelmed? I'd love to hear how you keep your to-dos in order so they get accomplished!