You too? These are some things that you should put into practice if your To-Do List has become a source of soul-crushing misery.
Get a notebook.I know, we’re all digital, storing things on our smartphones and in the cloud, blah blah blah. I’m with you, I get it. But it has helped me immensely to have a physical, paper notebook to carry around. It makes me feel more in control somehow, and I like the freedom of being able to cross things out, scribble in the margins and draw myself little diagrams. If you’ve tried digital organization and still feel overwhelmed, try going back to paper for awhile and see if it helps.
Write the mother of all To-Do Lists.Open up a blank page and start writing. Don’t worry about priority or grouping tasks in any way. Just spend 15-20 minutes brainstorming everything on your agenda for the next month or two, from tiny things like “buy bread” to big things like “redecorate living room” or “write thesis”. Fill as many pages as you need. One of the things I find most overwhelming is the feeling that I have so many things to do that I’ve forgotten some of them. It helps to get everything out of your brain and onto paper.
Take your big tasks and break them down into smaller steps.Put a star next to any task that’s going to involve multiple steps or take more than an hour. On a new page, break those things down into smaller bites. For example, you might take “redesign blog”, which is potentially a huge job, and break it down into 1) pick new color scheme, 2) create new logo, 3) pick social media icons, etc.
Every week, start a new page in your notebook.Write out each day of the week, separated by 3 blank lines.
3... And so on.
Every morning, pick 3 things from your Big To-Do list and add them to your list for that day.You only get to pick 3, no matter how much you want to do more. If you knock those three things off the list and still really want to do more, pick one additional thing from the big list. However, if you get your 3 things done and you don’t want to do anything else, you don’t have to! 3 things is totally good. Have a beer! Watch some Star Trek! Take a nap! You earned it.
Fun things can (and should!) totally be on your list.
Take your dog to the dog park! Schedule a friend date! Buy a bottle of your favorite wine! Have a fancy-pants dinner with your significant otherperson! Take a bubble bath! Make sure that your list is not all miserable, menial tasks and pencil some fun shenanigans in there too. At least one per week. Get comfortable with the idea that these are equally important and not a waste of time, because they're integral to your sanity.
If you don’t hit your goals for the day, they just roll over to the next day.There is no punishment, no sulking, no feeling like a failure. Sometimes shit happens. Add those undone items to your list for tomorrow. This is not an “extra” or “overdue” task - it just becomes #1 for tomorrow, and tomorrow you pick only 2 more tasks. Or maybe you don’t do anything today and just roll over all 3 to tomorrow. It’s ok! The world will not spin off of its axis because you did not return a book to the library or paint your closet.
Forgive yourself when you mess up.Maybe you’ve been a straight up slacker and haven’t hit your 3 tasks for a whole week. I know I’ve had some weeks where I’d rather gorge myself on Mexican food and live in front of Netflix than do anything useful. There have been times when I’ve come home from work on Friday, put on pajamas and not taken them off again until it was time for work on Monday. These things happen when you’re human.
In fact, they don’t just happen, you’re entitled to them. Don't beat yourself up. Just chalk it up to "Me Time" and, when you're ready, pick up where you left off.
Do you ever set unrealistic expectations for yourself?
Have you found a good way to keep them in check?
Unbelievably cute monster notebook available here.