If you’re at all like me, you live and breathe by your to do list. Sometimes these lists are neat fully and thoughtfully constructed. Other times, they are scribbled on a mass stack of sticky notes and stuck all over the place.
I often write my to-do lists with a heart half full of hope. “I am going to get ALL of this done. I’ll feel better. I’ll help myself and the others that depend on me to complete these tasks. I am awesome.” The other half of my heart is thinking, “Oh my heavens, this is never going to all get done. I don’t have the time.”
Balancing Your Mindset
When we begin to write these to do lists, we need to be conscious of which half of that heart we are dwelling on, because I believe we need the hope and the reality. Belief that you can manage and manipulate your time in a way that can lead to completing those tasks is important. Without it, you’re already losing an uphill battle.
Reality of how long certain tasks take and where in your already busy schedule those tasks can fit is also important.
Allowing your heart and mind to feel both of these conflicting thoughts is important to balancing your mindset before any true transformation can take place in your productivity.
This idea of balancing belief with reality can also lower your level of anxiousness about “fitting it all in”.
So repeat after me, “I am brave enough to do it all, and I’ll be driven to manipulate my time to make it a reality.”
Get Your Ideas Organized
Now that our mindset is in the right place for optimal productivity, let’s get to that transformation.
Start by writing and organizing your to-do list in the way that makes most sense to you. I find it easiest to break it down into a single day or single afternoon of tasks at a time. If you’re a big picture person, you could look at a all the tasks you need and want to complete in a week.
Some people will then benefit from organizing those tasks into categories by either most time pressing to least, by personal goal or by area of their life.
This next step is the TRANSFORMATION.
Time to Transform That To Do List
This transformation is such a simple idea, yet, it will lead to much more complex thinking about the individual tasks on your list.
Next to each task or responsibility, write an approximate amount of time it will take you to complete this task. Most items on our to-do list are tasks that we complete routinely. Therefore, it won’t take long to determine how long it will take.
Notice, it says approximate amount of time. This is not to guilt yourself if you estimate incorrectly. This is to get a better handle on how much time each individual thing you need to complete with really take you.
Why Take This Extra Step?
Couldn’t I take the time you’re telling me to spend thinking about each task and writing the times to actually work on something?
Absolutely you could. However, there are benefits to investing a small amount of time upfront to reap the rewards later. Here are just a few of them.
While you are calculating that estimated amount of time, your brain is breaking that task into smaller more manageable components.
For example, one of the things on my to do list says to write an email to my teammates about our meeting next week. It takes me about 20 seconds or less to reason through how long that email is going to take me to write.
Thoughts I had during that 20 seconds included: “What needs to be said in that email?”, “How much information do I really need to give them?”, and “Do I already have that information gathered?”
After considering the answers to those questions, I determine it’s going to be a quick email. I have most of the information gathered already, so I write on my to do list that it will take me about 10 minutes to send the email.
My anxiousness about that task is now significantly less because I have already briefly considered its steps.
Less Overwhelming – More Confident
Now when I actually get to that task, it is going to be less overwhelming and much easier to begin. I don’t have a full outline of my email, but I do have an idea of the steps I need to take. The time I spend on the task itself is often less than what is anticipated because some of the mental prep has already been completed on the to do list itself.
Each task has an estimated amount of time it will take and I can use that in my time blocking or in my calendar more effectively.
With a clearer understanding of how much time each task will take, you can more confidently place those tasks in different places in your schedule.
Let’s say I know that I have 25 minutes between two obligations. I can effectively choose which task or tasks off my list I can realistically complete in that span of time.
My Estimation Was Wrong
That’s okay! Give yourself grace in this process. You’re working towards a more structured way to complete your responsibilities. If it was better than yesterday, give yourself a break. If it wasn’t, tweak your list for tomorrow.
Remember, this to do list idea works best in conjunction with that balanced mindset. Give yourself permission and grace to TRY.
Connect With us!
Show us a picture of your to do list with this easy transformation or share a success story in the comments! We want to celebrate and support each other.
If you enjoyed this, check out How to Balance Your Emotions at Work.