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Is your to-do list less of a helpful tool and more of an anxiety-creating monster?

At least once a year, I come across an article or video about how to-do lists don’t work and we shouldn’t use them.

Their definition of a to-do list tends to fall into one of two categories:

  • The list of everything you want and need to do
  • The list of things you plan to get done if today is the perfect day with no interruptions or unexpected sidetracks AND if you can get 12 hours of work done in 7 or less!

A to-do list is less of a helpful tool and more of an anxiety-creating monster with either of those definitions.

Your to-do list can be a helpful tool that keeps you on track with your goals.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the list of everything you want and need to do.

As David Allen says:

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

Your daily to-do list is not your everything list. Instead, your daily to-do list is a list of items that you plan on completing taking into account your appointments and normal interruptions.

I already hear you saying, “But I can’t plan for my interruptions. That’s why they’re interruptions!”

One of the common reasons I hear for not creating a to-do list is, “I never can get through it because of the unexpected interruptions! It’s so frustrating!”

This is a cycle that prevents you from creating a daily to-do list that works for you. 

How long will you let this cycle hold you back?

Let me know if you’d like to have a chat about how to create a to-do list that works for you.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #122 / Two common to-do list mistakes and what to do about them

Two common to-do list mistakes and what to do about them

How effective is your to-do list?

I’ve found that most people have one in one form or another.

And sometimes we assume that everyone puts together a to-do list the way we do.

I’ve found that people are generally making one or two mistakes with their to-do lists and we’re going to talk about that today.

Mistake 1

Your to-do list is on whatever piece of paper or notebook that happened to be near you when you needed to write somethings down.

A side effect of this to-do list method is you keep thinking about all the things you have to do. Your mind is a constant stream of things to do.

This is because your brain is super smart (really it is) and it knows that you might not find that piece of paper or notebook when you’re at your desk ready to do that work.

What to do instead

Have ONE place you write your to-do lists.

You’re not creating your WHOLE planning and tracking system here, you’re starting with ONE small tweak that will help you develop a habit that supports your future planning/tracking system.

You might start with a smaller notebook that will easily fit in your purse or an app on your phone.

I’d suggest starting with a notebook and seeing how that goes for a bit.

Mistake 2

Your to-do list is in ONE place, but it’s a list of EVERYTHING that you need to do.

This is actually a good problem to have because it means that you’re writing things down (physically or digitally) and you know what needs to be done. 

What to do instead

Create a list of only what needs to be completed today or this week. The other things can be done in the coming weeks.

This allows you to set your priorities once a week and then you won’t have to decide on a daily or moment-to-moment basis what your priorities are.

Ideally, these things tie to your goals for the month, but again, it’s about doing one small tweak so that you start creating the habits that support your future habits and systems.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m not suggesting that you start with creating a planning/tracking system right off the bat.

My question for you is: have you tried jumping right into a planning system or goal tracking system before? Yes? How did that go?

What I find with my clients is they have a list of things they’ve tried (and planners in the closet with maybe a month filled out) and then something popped up, they got busy, or there was some other disruption.

The new system took a lot of time and effort to keep up with because the habits around it hadn’t developed yet. So, it all fell apart.

Instead, look at the small steps you can take or one habit you can develop that will make a difference. When that step is completed or that habit developed, then you can add something else.

If you want to know a couple of small tweaks that will make a big difference for you, reach out to schedule a complimentary session with me. You can do that by commenting or filling out the Contact Me form on my website here: http://www.oneinsightcloser.com/contact-me


Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #113 / Choosing between an impromptu visit and your to-do list

Choosing between an impromptu visit and your to-do list

I was searching through my blog archives last week and came across something I wrote seven years ago that really stuck with me.

It’s about what to do with impromptu visits.

Those “hey, I’m in town today, want to grab some lunch” type of unexpected invitations.

For me, they usually come from family members.

And I’m a planner. I like to have appointments on my schedule at least a week in advance and my tasks for the week outlined before Monday morning.

When I get an impromptu visit or lunch request, it can feel like someone took a large cartoonish wrench and threw it into my well planned and thought out week.

Do I want to spend time with them? YES!

AND I want to get the things I had planned for the week done too.

The problem is if I always say no last-minute requests of my time, I might not have an opportunity to see that person again for a few months.

I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons having my own business was appealing was that I could occasionally enjoy these impromptu visits.

So, if I say no to these visits, am I honoring my schedule and plans or am I being too tied to them?

Here’s what we forget about our to-do lists, schedules, and plans sometimes: they are there to help you and work for you. You do not work for them.

It sounds a little weird to say it like that, but sometimes in our quest to get as much done as we can each day, we forget that there are other things to do.

Life doesn’t always fit in nice little compartments and since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you really don’t want it too. You want a life with flexibility.

This doesn’t mean it’s always easy to put aside my plans for the week and have brunch with family instead. I have things! that must be done! And if I start my day late, those things! Might not get done! (does anyone else’s brain work like this? Or is it just me?)

This is when it’s helpful for me to take a breath and realize that if there are no appointments scheduled, then the things! can be done later.

When I have impromptu visits and my mind is ping-ponging between GO have fun and STAY to complete the things! I ask myself these questions:

  • Are there any appointments or meetings that this will overlap or interfere with?
  • Are there any deadlines approaching that will be negatively impacted?
  • Have I already spent time this week with unplanned visits?
  • How will this impact progress on my goals?

The gist of these questions is: will my business or goals be negatively affected by spending time elsewhere?

If so, is spending this time with this person more important than my business and/or goals?

Notice that I wrote “is spending this time with” and not “is spending time with.” That one little word changes the meaning of the sentence a bit.

Again, your schedule and to-do list are meant to help guide you and make your day flow smoothly.

They are not a ball and chain that keep you tied to your office or computer.

If you’re treating them like that, step back, get curious and ask yourself why.

Leave a comment letting me know when was the last time you said yes to an impromptu visit.

And if your schedule and to-do list feel like a ball and chain or if it feels impossible to say yes to an impromptu visit, then reach out and let’s talk. The easiest way to do that is to leave a comment or fill out the Contact Me form here.


Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #112 / Are you solving problems that don't exist?

Are you solving problems that don’t exist?

“Solving problems that don’t exist.”

This is an idea that I came across a week or two ago.

When I Googled it to see if I could find where it came from, the top results were about inventions that solve problems we don’t actually have.

But that’s not the way I saw it used.

This is about those items on your to-do list that seem like a good idea, but you actually don’t need to do—it solves a problem, but the problem doesn’t actually exist for you.

I’m guilty of this.

A couple of weeks ago I spent at least a couple of hours updating the passwords that my password manager app told me were either duplicates or not good passwords.

95% of the sites I was changing passwords on were sites that I rarely use, have no important information stored with them, and if they did get hacked it wouldn’t have been an issue.

It wasn’t a good use of my time.

Those sites didn’t actually need their passwords updated.

I was solving a problem that didn’t actually exist.

Instead of spending time on that, I could have been making phone calls, emailing people, or any number of things that are actually important for my business.

So, I encourage you to look at your to-do list for today or this week and make note of the things that solve problems that don’t exist OR that can be done after the tasks that are actually important for your business.

And then, instead of doing them, do the things that are important for your business instead.

When I do this to my to-do list I instantly have a slew of reasons pop into my head about why those things need to be done.

For the above-mentioned password updating it was “but now that app doesn’t complain nearly as much as it did about passwords” or “now my security score is so much better!”

Those things didn’t actually cost me any time before I changed it. They weren’t important.

For some of the other things on my list, it’s thoughts like “but getting those things off my list will feel really good” or “these things can be knocked off my to-do list quickly” or “they’ve been on my list to do for a while now, I should do them”.

But they don’t need to be done. Nothing will be negatively impacted if I do them next week or next month.

What are those things for you?

What are your tasks that really do need to be done?

And if everything feels like it’s important and needs to be done, reach out and let’s talk. The easiest way to do that is to leave a comment or fill out the Contact Me form here.


What happens when you work from a weekly list without a daily list

Last week I came across an article that was a compilation of productivity advice from around 10 different small business owners.

The first person they listed advised something to the effect of pick 3 things to do each day instead of having a long to-do list.

A couple of people later someone’s advice was a daily to-do list is too constraining, instead create a weekly to-do list and do the tasks as you feel like doing them.

Soooo, which is it?

I wish these lists would come with a bit more information about the person and their company.

Do they have a personal assistant? Is there a large team supporting them? Does he spend most of his time in meetings? Is his weekly to-do list already very short? Is he marking his weekly list with the one or two tasks that are the highest priority for the day?

If I had to guess, the person who thinks you should work off of a weekly to-do list and do tasks as you feel like doing them has a really great personal assistant who’s encouraging him/her to do the important things that are buried in that weekly list and they might not feel like doing.

My experience with clients and my own personal experience is that when you’re working from a weekly list without a daily list one of three scenarios will generally play out:

  1. You end up doing all the fun and exciting and maybe even easy things that the beginning of the week. Which means at the end of the week you have all the things you don’t care to do or require more energy. And then something isn’t going to be done because it’s exhausting and you didn’t budget your energy/attention very well.
  2. The beginning of the week feels like you have all the time in the world to get the things on your list complete. So, you dilly-dally or spend more time than you need to on the tasks you do decide to work on and suddenly there’s A LOT left to do on Thursday and Friday.
  3. You’re so overwhelmed by your list of things that you want/need to get done this week that you do very little or nothing. Or you bounce around a lot because there are so many high priority tasks that need to be done NOW.

You might have guessed that between the options of working from a weekly list or a pick 3 things to do for the day – I’d go with picking 3 things.

More to the point, I recommend creating a daily to-do list in whatever format works best for you. If that’s a list of three things, great! If that’s formatted some other way, great!

To the business owner that finds a daily to-do list too constraining, I’d love to know how you’ve created your daily list in the past. There are many different ways to create it that allow you to get things done in an efficient way and do things that work with your energy and attention level for that day.

If this topic feels like it’s impacting you personally, and you’d like some help, let’s talk! The easiest way to set that up is by applying for coaching by clicking here.