The Secret to Owning your To-Do List
To do lists can be so overwhelming. There's just so much to do, and sometimes it's hard to know where to start.
I used to struggle with this. There was always too much to do, all of it mattered, and I'd be floundering - running from task to task, trying to figure out what was more important, where to spend my time and what to do first. And really, I got very little done.
I mean obviously some stuff was more important; spending 20 minutes on Missy's reading is super important, spending that time organizing my baking drawer... yeah, not so much.
But other things sat in that murky grey area in between - go to the gym for an hour, or keep working to hit that deadline?
We've all got a massive list of things we should be doing. And we've all got the same number of hours in every day. But there's one little secret that'll take you from being bogged down in endless to dos, to actually owning them - and achieving what you want and loving it.
And the secret is, sorting out your priorities.
Ok, so perhaps it's not a huge secret - but how to actually do it is. If you've ever read anything on getting organized, 'prioritizing your to-do list' comes up a lot - but it's rare for anyone to explain how to do it.
And not many people actually know what their priorities are - they've never really thought about it. Of course kids and work and your relationship are - but in what order? And how about the other stuff you love? Also, many people have never truly set their priorities because they have to make choices - 'I want this, more than I want this.' And making decisions is hard.
Now, priorities aren't goals. Goals are something you'll achieve in the future like getting that job, losing 10kg or renovating the house. Priorities are in the present tense - they're what you can do and be today. This blog is a priority for me. And being a great mum and wife. But my blog comes second to Dan and Missy. Always. Because those guys are more important to me.
In a nutshell, your priorities come down to what you care about most, in order of importance.
But they aren't set in stone! Your priorities will change as major pieces of your life change - Missy started school this year, so all of a sudden her reading and routines are hugely important to me, where as last year our routine was pretty non-existant and revolved around Dan's hours at the office. Dan's priorities have changed this year too - he can't get home at 9pm if he wants to see his daughter - so now, those late nights at work are less of a priority than playing with Missy.
The order of your priorities will change from week to week too. Last week, my first priority was coping with the crazy at the office until Wednesday, and Missy's birthday party after that. Apologies to everyone emailing me about when the 2018 planners are coming, but her party and friends came first, and I spent two days preparing and baking, and gladly stayed up until 4am both days. And it was lovely - she and her friends had an awesome time, and she'll always remember it. This week though, it's all about the blog, and I've pushed back everything that's not urgent to focus. I've even cleared my social calendar for the next month to concentrate on the blog - because I want my blog stuff more than I want to go to those events.
Ok, so I'm going to stop rambling and give you a quick 7 steps to sorting out your priorities and owning your to do list.
Seven Steps to Owning Your
Grab a piece of paper and write down what you want. Don't think, just write down what you think your priorities are. Write what you want - not your husband, friends, mother or mother-in-law. Just brain dump everything that's important. It might be that you want to spend more time relaxing, or giving more back to the community, or repairing your marriage if it's gone a little off, working on a hobby or building your business. Your priorities will be unique to you.
Take a look down your list, and whittle them down to just five. It's ok to have more, but try to keep it short. Then put them in order of importance. Yours will look something like this... (yep, these are actually mine at the moment).
1. I want to be a great mum to Missy.
2. I want to be a great friend to Dan - wife or no, at heart we're simply best friends.
3. I want my blog to absolutely fly.
4. I want to help out Dan and Dad in their respective businesses to take the pressure off and help out the family in the long term.
5. I want to have a beautiful, organized home.
Now, go through your to-do list and get rid of anything not aligned with your wants above that you really don't want to do. Don't feel guilty - you've just set out the things that are most important to you, and anything that doesn't align, is just not 'you' at the moment! For me, that means I'm not volunteering this year, that I say no to a lot of social events, and those long, long, loooong calls with my sister (unless I'm doing housework lol!).
Take a look at what's left, and see what you can pass off to others - delegate stuff to your spouse, kids, employees etc. No one likes it when mum is so stressed out she's losing it every night - it's not fun for anyone. So just do it. If your spouse or kids have never had to chip in, just give them stuff to do - be blunt, and just say 'I need a hand, can you do xxx please.' There will be whining, but it's worth it in the end.
For me, even though helping Dan and Dad is in my list above, there are a few jobs I told them they need to do themselves, simply because they have the knowledge to do in 2 hours what took me 12 after I finally found all the info, and it was cutting into my blogging time - which at the moment, is a higher priority.
Break your time into zones or areas, based on your priorities, and divide your to-do list accordingly. For me (because it's easier to explain with an example!), I head to the office three days a week, blog for three days a week and clean the house for one. Evening time is time for Missy, and when she's in bed, Dan and I have our time to catch up and talk.
Now, it's pretty rare to write 'Chat to daughter about her day' on your to-do list... We don't tend to write down relationship things to do - even though for most of us they would be top of our priority lists. And that's ok - relationship stuff is more about focus - if there's a dedicated time, like the evenings, to just focus on that relationship, and do things for that relationship, without other aspects of life taking over, then that's what really counts. In the evenings, I do reading, sort washing, get uniforms ready, make dinners and pack lunches - as well as chatting, teaching, playing and helping her. It's rare that I'll let office stuff intrude into this space.
NB: I also always have an Errands/To Buy list going for when I'm down the street if you're wondering where to put those things :)
Highlight or star the top three things in each area/zone that will make the biggest impact. This way, next time you're in that space, you'll know exactly where to start. (And break them into smaller chunks if they're big projects!) Yesterday after school, we had an impromptu catch up with some of Missy's friends and their mums. This is really important as she's known these kids since she was born, and they don't necessarily play together at school. Anyway, we didn't get home until way after 5. I didn't have a lot of time, so I just did the things that would make the most difference - reading, dinner, uniforms and lunches - and called it a night. If you know what's most important, you can always make sure the most important things are getting done!
Go for it! Use this system and see how it works for you - and tweak it to suit your lifestyle. If you've never set up your to do lists this way it might take a little while to get used to - but I guarantee you'll find yourself getting more of the important things done. And don't forget - the order of your priorities can change from week to week, but the actual priorities should basically stay the same - it's a good rule of thumb to go back and re-assess them every six months or so.
So there we go! By looking at your to do list in light of your priorities - and what you really care about - you'll find it transforms from being an odious, horrible list of chores, into something that - you guessed it - you actually want to achieve.
And you're going to start achieving more things that actually matter to you.
So good luck! If you're looking for more posts on getting organized, just scroll down to the suggested posts below - and don't forget to sign up to my newsletter along the way :)
All the best,