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  • Writer's picturecocoy montenegro

To-Do Lists Are A Special Kind Of Hell

There. I said it. I hate “To-Do” lists. I have tried nearly every To Do list app on the planet, and they ALL have the same problem…the app expects ME to complete the items on the list! The app tracks what I haven’t done and reminds me what a failure I am for as little as $3.99 and as much as $99.99.

I tried several apps over the years, including Things, Omni, ToDo-ist, etc. I used Things and Omni with some success. Last year, I switched to ClickUp, which has been a game changer. It’s a To-Do List on steroids. It allows me to put tasks in a brain dump, and then I categorize them by the area that they fall under. I can then assign tasks to my team members. I’m still not the best at getting tasks done due to time constraints, but I’m further along than I was. It may take some research to find the right app for you.

This topic came to mind as I looked through my to-do list and saw I was overdue on 300 items. Yikes! I spent an entire day re-organizing my list. The tips below are some of the ones I used to create and re-configure my list for maximum efficiency.

Collect every “to do” you have and put it in an “inbox.” Just because it will “only take a minute,” write it down. You’ll be amazed at how much clutter you carry in your mind. If your mind was a computer, the simple act of writing it down allows your mind allows your brain to “close some windows.” This will free up your brain power to focus on the things that actually need to get done.

Organize your to-dos. I struggled with this one because I have a lot of projects going on at once. I divided my tasks into significant life areas: work, family, and me. You can divide these up into smaller areas if needed. If you have two jobs, have an area for each job. You may need an area for chores and family members if you have a large family. If you have an area for you, you might divide that up into social/emotional, physical, and/or spiritual growth.

Next, figure out your priorities. Start with due dates or the importance each task has in your life. I prefer using a High, Normal, and Low priority system.

Start your to-do list item with a verb, then fill in the details later. “Write a report for work” will be better on your to-do list than “Work report.” With the verb, you know what kind of work needs to be done.

Always include a deadline. If it doesn’t have a deadline, it’s probably not important enough to have on your list, so give yourself a break and let go of those tasks.

Clarify or remove any vague tasks, tasks that aren’t fully clear. “Clean the kitchen” is ambiguous. Breaking this down into smaller tasks, like putting away groceries, washing dishes, starting the dishwasher, and sweeping the floor, is more specific. It allows you to feel four successes instead of one.

Break up your work into smaller tasks. If that report for work needs to be 300-500 pages, break up that report into smaller tasks, like writing chapters. Write Chapter 1: Introduction for the report on employee relations. You may need to include chapters for collecting research as well.

Batch smaller or similar tasks. I like to-do lists that allow me to add these kinds of details. I can do all of my finance tasks at once, or I can combine my errands and shopping for maximum efficiency.

Place your short and long-term goals in a separate list. Don’t allow those to get intermingled into your regular to-do list because you don’t want to get overwhelmed. Schedule time each week to work on those goals, though!

At the start of each day, pick 3 things on your to-do list that need your attention, and knock them out. If your mind or body seems resistant to getting these 3 tasks done, it’s time to take a moment and have a conversation with yourself. What is this resistance doing for me? Why don’t I want to get these things done? Make a note for yourself because whatever “that feeling” is is getting in your way of becoming your highest self.

Celebrate your progress by setting rewards for yourself. If you get 10 things done, take a few minutes to say, “I did it!” and enjoy a quick cup of coffee.

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