How To Reduce Your To-Do List

Published: March 27, 2012
By: Faye Hollands

Have you got things on your to-do list that have been hanging around like a bad smell,  hoping, wishing and waiting to get done week after week?  If that sounds familiar you’ve got what I like to call a ‘gonna to-do list’ – something that can cause a lot of frustration if you’re not careful!…

Divide and Conquer

Everyone’s got stuff they’re ‘gonna’ do, and the odd ‘gonna’ here and there’s OK but if your list continues to grow over a long period of time unfortunately so will your frustration levels as tasks go undone week after week.  This in turn can impact your ability to focus and concentrate on what’s actually important.

Unconsciously all of those ‘gonna items’ that are swirling around inside your head compete for your attention, making it hard to put them completely out of your mind until they’re done or deleted.

So what can you do to ease the burden if your to-do list is overflowing with ‘gonna’ items?  Start by following these simple steps…

1.  3 Columns: On a piece of paper draw three columns entitled – Want To, Need To, Should Do

2.  Split Them Up: Go through your to-do list and write each task down under one of the three headings.  Here’s how to split them up: –

  • Want To – items you actually have a desire to do but just haven’t found the time for so far
  • Need To – these are the tasks that contribute to your key goals and objectives
  • Should Do – jobs you think you ought to do but probably don’t have much motivation for

3.  Organise: Now it’s time to prioritise, reduce or eliminate you ‘gonna’s’ based on your 3 lists.  Here’s how: –

Want To & Need To: These are your priorities because they make you feel good when done, and actually contribute to your goals and purpose.  To stop them being ‘gonna’s’, pick one, break it down into smaller tasks and schedule time in your diary to get each piece done.  Importantly, be realistic and don’t try and work on all of these tasks at the same time.  For example: –

  • Gonna Task: Get a new job
  • Want, Need, Should: You want to do it, and on some level you probably need to as well
  • Break It Down: Having ‘get a new job’ written on your to-do list is a huge task and one that can seem overwhelming, which is probably one of the reasons why it’s stuck on the ‘gonna’ pile in the first place.  To change jobs requires lots of different individual actions, including writing your resume, updating on-line profiles, researching potential employers, meeting recruiters, brushing up on interview techniques, and so on.  By focusing your time and attention on each of these components one by one it’s much easier to start taking action, moving ‘get a new job’ off the gonna pile!

Should Do: I tell my clients not to ‘should all over themselves’ and it’s something I urge you to resist too.  Life’s no fun if you spend too much of your time doing things just because you think you should, and these tasks are often the biggest culprits when it comes to gonna-lists.

Take a look at your ‘should’ list and be brutal – delete everything that’s been sitting on there for weeks and is unlikely to ever get done.  Resist the temptation to leave them on your to-do list just as a reminder – your mind will be much clearer and focused when you get rid of them once and for all!

For the items that are left it’s important to look at your motivation behind doing them, and what the cost will be to you if you continue to put them off.  If there’s no cost, and you’re unmotivated to take action, then delete.  If there’s a cost and it’s one you’re not willing to pay, then follow the same process as above and break each item down into small, bite sized pieces so that the task becomes more palatable.

Whatever category your ‘gonna’s’ fall into, rest assured that when you eliminate, reduce or actually do them you’re going to feel a whole lot better, and we all know it’s hugely satisfying to draw a line through a long, lingering to-do list item!!

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Written by Faye Hollands – Director at Outshine Consulting and Busy Working Mumma. Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success.

To receive your FREE MP3 download of Faye’s popular teleseminar ‘How To Create A Career You Love‘ and weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email fayehollands@outshineconsulting.com

Faye Hollands

About Faye Hollands

Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success. To receive weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here or book your Free Focus Session here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email fayehollands@outshineconsulting.com

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