Knowing the real purpose of YOUR to-do list

Uncategorized Mar 28, 2019

The concept that a to-do list could be a bad thing had never occurred to me before I became a Professional Organizer. The people I meet who are struggling with disorganization have them. I had one. Organized people have them, so how can it be a bad thing?

First of all, having a to-do list is very different from completing one. I have clients who have many to-do lists, just none that are actually completed.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

Is it for show? There is no award for having the most items on your to-do list because if there was, I would have gotten it back in my cluttered, chaotic and disorganized days!

Is it something you know you should have but don’t know how to make it work? (this should be taught in school, don’t feel bad)

Are you using it as a form of self defeating punishment to remind you of all the things you didn’t do?

Secondly, the list can either energize or beat you down.

Is your list making life easier or are you completely burdened by it?

Revelation-not everyone likes to check things off a list! A list can be overwhelming if not done properly.

Lastly, when the to-do list is confusing and doesn’t provide you with real focus it can be a detriment.

Your list should be fairly short and provide you with the information needed to be more productive. 

Recognizing a to-do list as a tool that helps you get things done is a positive connection to the piece of paper. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s focus on writing out the to-do list.Once it is written, it can be moved over into technology. Rewiring the pathway in your brain to have a positive connection will require this until you have rid yourself of the negativity attached to your list. 

Let’s move on to making your to-do list a good thing in your life. In order to transform your to-do list into a done list there must be a defined purpose for your day. This comes from creating an intention based on your values and what you, as a person need to have balance in your life. This will make your list truly yours and not related to anyone else’s agenda. Obviously, if you are a mom, your family will always be a part of your list. The key is to make sure you put taking care of your needs on the list.

Your list should attach the amount of time it takes to complete each task on it. Many people don’t realize how long it takes them to shower. Some write down, “get ready” on the to-do list but they don’t because taking a shower, drying hair, getting dressed, putting on makeup or anything else that becomes a part of the process. This can seriously throw off your list/schedule. Time does need to be factored into a to-do list. A week of time keeping will give you a really good idea of what this actually looks like in reality.

Limit yourself to 3 key activities that go with your intention of the day and keep a healthy balance. If you can accomplish more, wonderful! This really helps set the tone of being realistic with your time. It also keeps your list manageable.

Be specific with your to-do list. Generalizations are really of no use, though many think they are saving time when they write it down this way. I found that just saying, make a doctor appointment kept being incomplete on my list. I finally realized that I needed to have my calendar in front of me when I made the appointment and then I could make the appointment! So, you just never really know what keeps us from completing something on the list. It’s good to dig a little deeper if you see the same thing on there a couple of days in a row. It is likely that this really wasn’t that important anyway or you need to be more specific to be able to take action.

It makes a tremendous difference when you can actually look at your to-do list without angst or a feeling of tremendous burden. Keep the focus of the list being a tool that you can use each day to make your life run a little smoother and with purpose. At the end of the day, you can see what you have accomplished. There will still be days, hopefully fewer, when little gets done but after all, that is life in general and not always a bad thing! When using your list correctly you will begin to see that there will be more time for the things you really want to do.


Happy organizing,

Darlene Illig

Organize You Inside and Out

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