Mastering Your To-Do List
For as long as I can remember I have been making To-Do lists. Grocery to-do lists, school work to-do lists, project to-do lists, work to-do lists; there seems to be no end to the kinds of list I can make.
I use these lists to help me move forward in my day. There’s something about checking off something on a list that makes me feel accomplished.
Sometimes though, my lists can get out of control. I fill them up with so many things to do that I get buried under all of it and checking off just a few isn’t enough; I feel a sense of failure because I didn’t get them all done. It doesn’t seem to matter how big the action items were that I did cross off, only that there are still more things left to do.
I’ll bet at this moment you have at least one To-Do list nearby. Maybe even a couple. If you’re like me they started off neat and then grew into a mess of action items that all get lost in each other.
I sat with a group of girlfriends this past weekend at a “Girl’s Craft Day” planning lunch (Code for a Girl’s Day Out for sure!) and one friend brought her action item To-Do list for us all to discuss. There were things like “Set a date for a friends’ 50th birthday celebration trip.” “ Talk about the fundraiser coming up this month.” And even “Pick a craft and set a date.”
What did we talk about? Our lives. Our careers. Our families. Our struggles and heartaches.
This is what happens with girlfriends, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. But, when the same process happens with our to-do lists in other areas of our lives, the results can be devastating.
I can’t tell you how many times I have worked through a list, feeling more satisfied with every check mark, only to miss something vital that had to be done that day. Or, in choosing what seemed to be the easiest things to “get out of the way” first I have ended up with not enough time left to do the more important tasks.
Can you relate?
What if there was a better way? What if there was a way to work through our To-Do lists and make sure we are productive in the ways that matter most? Here are a few things I’ve been trying that have been working for me:
Make one list based on categories of priorities. We all have lots of areas in our lives that have their own lists: spiritual, self, marriage, family, home and work. Keeping multiple lists keeps us in an uneasy balance between multiple lists of paper. One list, organized according to the priority areas of your life, will help make sure what’s most important happens. Download a FREE Template HERE.
Create a system to rank your action items. Once you have your list, how do you know what to do first? I start by looking at each area of priority to see if there are any time-sensitive items. If there are I start with those and navigate through them first. If not, I move on to the action items that will take the longest amount of time. Additionally, I rank all the rest of the items as second most important, third, etc. so that I can move on to other action items in my list seamlessly in my day and week.
Move To-Do items onto your Calendar. It’s very easy to get caught in procrastination when we don’t move action items from our To-Do lists into taking up the time we need to commit to accomplishing them. Why don’t we put things on our calendar in the first place? Usually it’s the fear of making a mistake in how we are choosing to use our time, but if you have ranked your list according to your priorities that won’t be the case now will it? So, go ahead a move those items into your calendar. And, here’s a secret: you can change those items around. They are not set in stone.
Determine your worth is NOT in a competed To-Do list. This one is personal for me. I like to feel productive. Checking things off my list makes me feel accomplished in a season where there’s not a lot to show for how I spend my time. But, the truth is, none if it makes God love me any more than He does when I do nothing all day. My worth to Him is not in the doing; it’s in Him. So, if I don’t get everything done, I am no less, and I am not more when I get everything checked off. Neither are you. All we can give each day is our best: show up, be present, love, and trust Jesus to lead us through.
Join the Conversation: How do you navigate your To-Do lists?