The One Mistake to Avoid When You Make a To Do List

The One Mistake to Avoid When You Make a To Do List

Make This Simple Adjustment To Exit the To-Do List Crazy Train

The Mistake to Avoid When You Make a To Do List

Do You Feel Like You’ll Never Get Ahead?

  • Do you start each day with a long to-do list?
  • Do you feel deflated at the end of each day when you haven’t finished everything on your list? 
  • Are there days when you create a solid list of 25 actions and you only finish 1? (or maybe none at all)
  • Does it seem impossible to get anything done when you are bombarded with new requests, a gauntlet of meetings, and a seemingly endless list of responsibilities…..all day long?

The To-Do List Crazy Train

I used to do this ALL THE TIME and it would drive me crazy. Can you relate? 

I would make a to do list each morning, starting off each day with a laundry list of action items. This list was on top of my jam-packed schedule, which tends to include lots of kid shuttling and work meetings. 

Then, during the course of the day, I would end up adding more actions to the list than completing items already on there.

I would  end the day feeling defeated and overwhelmed. How could I ever get all of this done??? 

How to Stop the Crazy Train and Set Yourself Up For Success When You Make A To Do List

Let’s jump right into the answer….

The biggest mistake most people make when planning their day is ….

Creating a huge list and not estimating how much time it will take to actually complete.

When you make a to do list — Have you ever taken a couple of minutes to estimate out how much time each task will take you on that giant list?

I have to admit, planning is one of my strengths and it wasn’t until recently that I started estimating out each to-do on a consistent basis.

I was blown away. I quickly realized that my list would add up to 8 or 10 hours of work. No wonder I wasn’t getting it all done!

How to make a to do list

The Key is Estimating How Many Hours Will Your To-Do List Take

The key to make a to do list and get off the to-do list crazy is to make sure the amount of time your to do list will take is equal to (or less than) the amount of time you have available to do the work.

I know, this is sooooooo simple. Simple is great!

This is a quick ‘sanity check’ and will save you a lot of frustration and feelings of failure.

  1. Write out your to-do list, starting with what you would ideally accomplish in a day
  2. Estimate the time each task will take
    • PRO TIP – add some extra time to your estimate. Almost everything takes more time than we think it will. My general rule of thumb is to add 20% more time to each estimate.
  3. Add up the amount of time you just estimated
  4. Next, find the openings in your calendar when you could work on the to-dos.
  5. Compare the amount of time you estimated to the amount of time available.

Viola! Now it’s simple math.

  • If the time you estimated for your to do list is LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO the amount of time you have available, you’re golden. Go forward and conquer the day!
  • If the time you estimated for your to do list is GREATER THAN the amount of time you have available, you need to adjust. 

How to Cut Down Your To-Do List Without Freaking Out About the Stuff You’re Not Doing

So now you know that the amount of stuff you planned will take more time than you have.

Seriously, I know this is so simple, but you’d be shocked at how many of us think that somehow by writing down these long lists, that we’ll magically find the time to get it all done.

Then, we’re disappointed when we don’t get it all done.The Mistake to Avoid When You Make a To Do List

To fix this, we either need to make more time or we need to shorten the to do list. It’s pretty straightforward, but, I know, easier said than done when we want to accomplish it all.

To shorten and make a to do list, examine each item you put on there and ask yourself if you’re truly focused on today’s priorities:

  • What can you defer? Are there any items on the list that aren’t truly a priority and can be delayed?
    • This can be tricky when you just want to get the list done and keep the master list as short as possible. 
    • Instead, embrace the fact that the list will never be ‘done’ and that’s okay.
    • This is the KEY to not freaking out about the stuff you’re not doing. The master list will be a perpetual, ongoing list and that’s okay!
    • It’s much better to hit the TRUE PRIORITIES each day than to check off a bunch of s*!t that isn’t truly important right now.
  • What can you delete?
    • Is there anything you can delete entirely from your list, forever?
    • Take a hard look. Are you doing things that used to be important but aren’t anymore?
  • What can you delegate?
    • Are you spending time on anything that you could delegate to other people?
    • Ideas for delegation:
      • buy groceries online
      • hire a housekeeper
      • hire a mother’s helper who can do simple chores (like laundry) while watching the kids
      • hire a virtual assistant
      • use a service like Task Rabbit for simple tasks
      • sign up for a meal delivery service
    • You might be thinking “great idea but I can’t afford to outsource all of this stuff.”
      • Take a look at your budget and see if there’s anything you could reallocate.
      • For example, what if you cut down on eating out by a few times a month to carve out money for a housekeeper? Rethink the budget priorities with an open mind.
  • What can you streamline and even automate?
    • Is there anything you’re doing at an A+ level that could adjusted to a B-? 
    • I know you’re most likely an over achiever if you’re reading this article. But, set that aside and take a step back. Most things on our list will lead to the same end result if we complete it with a B- effort.
    • Ask yourself, “what am I gaining by trying to this particular thing perfectly?”
    • Watch for a blog post with a huge list of ideas on this topic.

Re-Examine Again

Now that you’ve gone through your to-do list Does the total estimated time for your to-do list equal the amount of time you have available?

If so, you’re good. Go conquer the day!

If not, repeat the steps above until the estimated time on your to-do list is less than or equal to the time you have available in the day to work on the list.

And, after you finish these steps, if you want a powerful system for getting more done in less time, check out the Ultimate Playbook: 5 Steps to Take Back Your Day. You can download that free guide over from the sidebar. –>

Pro Tip: Mindset

And finally, for those who love extra credit (like I do), here’s another quick exercise for you.

Examine your thoughts around the to-do list itself.  What do you think about your list?

  • Are your thoughts optimistic, like:
    • I’ll finish this list today and it will feel great.
    • I’m totally capable of finishing this list.
  • Or, do you have pessimistic thoughts like:
    • I’ll never get all this done.
    • I never finish the list, why would I think I could start finishing it now?
    • Deep down, I don’t want to finish this list because, if I have everything done, it means I should have done more?

Are you self-sabotaging? If you are, 

  • Consider what ‘stories’ you’re telling yourself about what you can and can’t accomplish.
  • Also, think about what it means to you to finish the list or not finish the list. Are you truly committed to finish the list or do you sub-consciously like having part of it undone?
    • This might seem a little crazy, I mean who doesn’t want to finish off their list?
    • I know, for me, I realized that I actually liked having part of my list unfinished because it gave me an ‘excuse’ to lean on for not accomplishing bigger goals.
    • Is that you too?
 

The Bottom Line

The biggest trap most people fall into when they make a to do list is making the list bigger than the amount of time they have available.

It’s simple math.

To make sure your list is realistic and addresses the highest priorities, take the following steps:

  1. Write out your to-do list, starting with what you would ideally accomplish in a day
  2. Estimate the time each task will take
    • PRO TIP – add some extra time to your estimate. Almost everything takes more time than we think it will. My general rule of thumb is to add 20% more time to each estimate.
  3. Add up the amount of time you just estimated
  4. Next, find the openings in your calendar when you could work on the to-dos.
  5. Compare the amount of time you estimated to the amount of time available.

Viola! Now it’s simple math.

  • If the time you estimated for your to do list is LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO the amount of time you have available, you’re golden. Go forward and conquer the day!
  • If the time you estimated for your to do list is GREATER THAN the amount of time you have available, you need to adjust. Tips for adjusting are:
    • Delete
    • Defer
    • Delegate
    • Streamline and automate

If you’d like to learn more, download the free Ultimate Playbook: 5 Steps to Take Back Your Day. 

5 Steps to Take Back Your Day!

5 step guide to take back your day   convertkit %282%29

Enter your email to receive the free Ultimate Playbook and accountability series.

I'll also add to you to my weekly Mother Crusher Guide, which has tips for busy moms like you. I won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Comments: 2

Leave a comment