Always fighting a losing battle with your to-do list? Here’s how to get more things done in your day
Lists, lists, so many lists - we’re losing track of the amount we’re juggling at any one time. From work to shopping to housework, how can we bolster both our organisational skills and quests for those elusive ticks when it comes to our notepads full of tasks, projects and meetings?
We asked life coach and Get The Gloss Expert Jacqueline Hurst about how to become a to-do list ninja and how to gain back some control when we’re feeling our most stressed. From ways to boost time-management skills, productivity and proactivity to ways to keep our heads above water when it feels like we’re drowning in post-its, let these top tips for to-do list success help in the battle against our files and diaries and ensure we make some serious headway when it comes to our day’s tasks.
Don’t know where to begin? A small but effective starting point is writing your tasks out by order of importance - even allocating a set time during which you’ll complete them by. Be strict with yourself and try your best not to deviate from them. “It may sound simple but to-do lists need to be put in order of priority,” advises Jacqueline. “Streamline your list by working out what requires urgent attention first. Work out what needs your attention and simply needs to be done and then make your list from there.”
Want a head start? Write your to-do list the night before - it’s a bona fide time-saver game-changer.
Plow through the procrastination
Step away from the kettle. You’re probably better off without that third cup of coffee, Facebook can wait and that Twitter notification will still be there in an hour’s time. Trust us, we know how tempting it can be to focus on anything but that urgent deadline, but you’ll be glad you kept your eyes on the prize come 5.30 and you’re on a train home rather than settling in for a late night in the office.
“Quit procrastinating. In my opinion procrastination is really perfectionism for scared people,” says Jacqueline. “Remember that getting the job done actually feels better than thinking about it, analysing it or putting it off. And you know you want to feel good…”
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Mind over matter
Paralysed by the size of your to-do list? Get those thoughts about your tasks outta your mind and onto paper and take a hefty dose of positive thinking to help get into the right mindset. Remind yourself of a project that you completed successfully in the past when you were up against it and bask in the post-deadline glory of days gone by. “Get your thoughts right. Thoughts generate feelings and feelings generate actions,” advises Jacqueline. “If your thoughts are not right about your to-do list, nothing will get done. Create a thought process that feels good and in turn the actions will speak for themselves.”
More of a morning person? If so, embrace your inner ‘early bird’ and catch that proverbial work worm when you’re feeling your most alert and energised. The feeling of satisfaction after you’ve completed a mammoth task will make you feel pretty much indestructible. “Tackle the big stuff first – that way it’s out of the way and done! Again, think about how you are thinking about it. If you are thinking – ‘I’ve got this’ or ‘I can handle this effortlessly,’ it’s much more likely to get you excited about doing the task,” recommends Jacqueline.
“If you are thinking ‘I can’t bear having to do this,’ not much is going to happen. Also remember that having to do something and wanting to do something is very different. Telling yourself you ‘have’ to do it creates a feeling of dis-empowerment, yet telling yourself you want to (which actually, you do) makes you feel empowered. Check your thoughts.”
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Manage your expectations
Piling too much onto your to-do list is a sure-fire way of feeling like you’ve always fallen short of your day’s targets, no matter how hard you’ve worked. It’s great to be ambitious, but resist the urge to add additional tasks onto your workload that could wait until the following day. “Be realistic. Don’t put anything on your to-do list that realistically challenges the status quo,” advises Jacqueline. “In other words if your expectations of yourself and your to-do list are simply unrealistic (i.e. being in two places at once) then remind yourself you are only human and can simply do the best you can do. And, your best is good enough.”
Sending out an SOS
Strength in numbers - if you’re working as part of a team, utilise each other’s assets and differing schedules to help handle your workloads both in and out of the office. “Delegate. Learn how to ask for help,” says Jacqueline. “Ask people to help you out with things you believe they are able to do. If your sister goes past your kids’ ballet classes, ask if she could pick the kids up on the way home. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
The power of no
Don’t be a yes man or woman. If you feel like you won’t be able to complete a task, don’t be afraid to say so. “Learn how to say NO. Learning how to say no is super important when it comes to to-do lists,” cautions Jacqueline. “Ultimately, if you are not saying ‘no’ enough, your to-do list is going to be ridiculous! Saying no is empowering and very often a loving thing to do for you. Practice makes perfect.”
Want to find a way to be more assertive? Check out these top tips.