So there just aren’t enough hours in the day, are there? There are school lunches to be made and buses to be caught and meetings to attend and dogs to be walked and homework to be done and mothers to be called and TV shows to catch up on. The list is endless and impossible to manage.
Or is it?
Believe it or not there are ways to get on top of your to-do list.
#1 – Use a notebook.
A spiral bound notebook. A notebook that makes you happy to look at and that you don’t want to lose. This is the key to being productive. Every organized person you know has one.
It is in this notebook that you keep your to-do list. When something new comes up you add it to your list. The to-do list in your notebook.
You do not keep your to-do list on a piece of paper that gets lost between the car seats or gets eaten by the dog. Your to-do list is in a notebook that you can’t throw away and you refuse to lose track of.
#2 – Set priorities.
Every morning take 10 minutes to review your to-do list and to set priorities. You can do this by starring or highlighting the things on your list that you need to get done that day.
Many of us do first the things on our list that we don’t mind doing and don’t do the things that need to be done.
Jill HATED making phones calls to set up appointments. As a result she never did set up appointments and so her dishwasher didn’t get fixed and her son missed his doctor’s appointment and her daughter’s permission slip didn’t get signed. Once she started setting her priorities Jill 1) didn’t have to make all of her phones calls at the same time but made them when they needed to be made (which made them less daunting) and 2) things that usually fell through the cracks (and made more work for her) no longer fell through the cracks.
#3 – Say No!
This is key. It is very, very hard for us to say no. We don’t want to say no for a variety of reasons whether it’s because we want to do something or we feel like we should do something or we think we need to do something. But before you say yes take a good hard look at why you are saying yes.
Janet always said yes, no matter what was asked of her. She liked to keep busy and didn’t want to let anyone down. But of course she ended up letting everyone down because she couldn’t be as effective at all of her tasks as she might have been. Once she started looking at why she was saying yes, and why she wasn’t saying no, she was able to pick and choose what she said yes to. Once she did that she was able to manage her time more effectively and successfully complete each task.
#4 – If it takes less than 10 minutes just DO IT.
Next time you have a few minutes, while you are waiting for the bus to arrive, or for a phone call to come in or while the kids are watching TV, take a look at your list. Is there anything on it that you can get done in 10 minutes or less? If there is, DO IT! It’s those little things that are daunting and tend to add up. And let me tell you, from personal experience, there is nothing more mood-enhancing then crossing something off of your list.
#5 – Check your computer only 3 times a day.
Yes, I know. This is the hard one. We are all totally addicted to our screens. Totally. And I am sure you are familiar with the phenomenon known as “screen sucking.” This is when your computer/phone/tablet screen sucks up all of your time before you even know it. A great way to add time to your day is to stay away from your screen.
I have a client who used to check her phone every moment she got, at the expense of everyone and everything around her. At my suggestion, for one week she checked it just three times a day: once in the morning, once at mid-day and once after dinner. It was painful in the beginning, she reported, but by the end of the week the amount of time she had to be productive had dramatically increased. So try it. For one week. See what happens.
There are 24 hours in our day and everyone should sleep for 8 of those hours. That leaves you 16 hours a day to use wisely. If you do, your life will be simpler, you will be happier and those around you will thrive.
Remember- work smarter, not harder. If you feel constantly overwhelmed with your daily tasks to the point where your life is not joyful, let’s talk.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.