Rethinking Your To Do List

Lately, I’ve been having conversations with a lot of women who are feeling overwhelmed.

These women have demanding jobs, busy social lives, and major goals for themselves. As a way to stay organized, many of them create To Do lists, thinking that seeing the big picture will help them dive in. Yet, what once felt like a great strategy, now feels like it’s running their lives.

Don’t get me wrong, To Do lists can be amazing tools. As a fellow Type A lady, I love a good To Do list as much as the next person. They are a great way to get organized and to make sure you have a log of all of the things you need and want to get done.

Yet when they get too long and unruly, they can be a source of major stress and anxiety. There is nothing more demotivating than a To Do list that never seems to get shorter, am I right?

The problem with a bulk To Do list is that it is just that - a bulk list.

In our over-scheduled lives, these lists can go on and on and on with no end in sight. Hey, I’m totally guilty of having multi-page To Do lists too. But these bulk lists stray away from the point of having a To Do list: a place to organize everything you need to get done and to see the progress you’ve made.

We often use To Do lists as a tool for helping us feel organized and accomplished. But when you have 37 things on your list and have only crossed off 3 of the items, it can feel like you’ll never get to the rest of them.

As a result, your motivation dwindles and your sense of guilt increases.

Instead of spending your energy working on the things on your To Do list, you start beating yourself up about how you’re not doing enough and never going to accomplish all of the things you’ve said you’d do. Cue the negative self-talk and sense of overwhelm and anxiety.

The women I’ve been talking to lately have been in exactly this place. They’re totally down on themselves because they haven’t been able to accomplish “anything” and feel like they should be doing “more”.

Sound familiar?

What I offered them - and offer now to you - is a different way to think about their To Do lists:

What if you think about your bulk To Do list as your brain dump list and, instead of trying to tackle it all at once, you create a series of daily, mini To Do lists?

By creating mini To Do lists, you’re creating a much more manageable list for yourself. Instead of doing all of the things at once, you chunk it down for yourself so you can actually make progress. Crossing items off your list will never have felt so good!

But how do I create a daily, mini To Do list when I have so. many. items., you ask?

Don’t worry my friend, I have a method for you right here!


Step 1: Brain dump

Go ahead and create that bulk “brain dump” To Do list that I know you’re dying to create.

But as you are doing it, remind yourself that you don’t have to do it all at once. You’re just writing it out for the purposes of understanding what needs to get done. That’s it.

Step 2: Prioritize your items

Now that you have a bulk list, start going through and prioritizing the items on that list.

What are the highest priority items? These are those time sensitive, must-get-done-by-a-certain-date, or otherwise really important items.

What are the lowest priority items? These are the items that don’t have a specific deadline, but you’d like to get done. They could happen today or weeks from now - it doesn’t totally matter.

What items fall in the middle? These are items that might have a little more urgency than the lowest priority items, but don’t need to happen literally this second.

As you go through the list, create a system for categorizing each of these priority levels for yourself so the items are easy for you to sort in the next step. For example, you can mark each item on the list with a corresponding letter or symbol. Or you could write them out under different headers such as “high”, “low”, and “middle”.

Step 3: Plan out your week

Now it’s time to sit down with your prioritized To Do list and your calendar and start making a plan.

In order to make sure that you do in fact create a mini To Do list (and not just another bulk list), choose 3 items from your big To Do list that you are going to tackle each day.

Start with your highest priority items. Use your calendar to assign those items to different days of the week. The address your middle priority items, followed by your low priority items.

Remember, you only get 3 items on your list per day. This is the minimum you need to get done that day. The idea behind this is to set yourself up for success, rather than frustration.

By limiting your list to 3 items per day, it keeps your list achievable, which will motivate you to actually get those items taken care of, rather than feeling like it’s an insurmountable feat to even make a dent.

You can do more than 3 items from your list a day, but any additional items are bonus. If you find you have extra time and get a few more things done, awesome! Pat yourself on the back. But remember: those items are not part of your original goal for the day.

By the end of the week, you’ll find that you’ve made much more progress on your bulk To Do list if you chunk it down into mini lists than you would have had you left it as one giant list.

It’s amazing that you want to accomplish so much! Just you remember to be gentle with yourself along the way. You’ll be much more motivated and effective if you set yourself up for success.

Try using my method of rethinking your To Do list and let me know how it works for you!

And of course, if you could use some 1-on-1 help with overcoming your To Do list overwhelm, I’m here for you!

Be well,