“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list” Patti Digh
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a risk of everything spiraling out of control. So, you need an easy technique you can use to take charge of your day.
Once you’re back in control, the pressure eases and you get relief from much of the stress you’ve been experiencing. Then as the relief sets in, you become more motivated and accomplish more of what you have to do.
So, it’s vital to get your day under control.
A Tried and Tested Method for Creating Order in Your Busy Day
There’s a tried and tested method for creating order out of chaos that literally anyone can start using today.
And this method is list making.
Its effectiveness lies in its simplicity and the fact that it’s easy to do.
There are four key benefits:
- By adding a task or activity to your list, you remove the chance of it being forgotten.
- When all your tasks are out of your head and down on a list, they become more manageable. This is because you can literally see what you have to do, so you start to feel in control again.
- You can then prioritize what needs to be done and when. You’re no longer using valuable time and energy worrying about what to do next, because you’ve already worked it out.
- By regaining a sense of control, you relieve the stress in your life.
Five Types of List
There are five types of list that are easily drawn up and which link in with one another.
The first is your all-inclusive list, which consists of absolutely everything you want (or have) to accomplish in both the short and the long term. Think of it as a brain dump where you add all your new tasks and activities as they crop up. Once something is on this list, you know it won’t be forgotten. The next four lists are separate sub-lists of your all-inclusive list.
The first is your annual list. This should include all the really important things you want to achieve during the next year. Just to be clear, these are the big goals you want to accomplish in your personal, family and work life. For instance, these might include lose 25lbs in weight, visit brother in Hawaii or earn $60,000 in income.
The next list is your monthly list. This should consist of all the things you want accomplish in the next four weeks. Now the important thing about the activities on this list is that they should dovetail in with the big goals on your annual list. They should move you one step closer to achieving all you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. So, these might include things like lose 2lbs in weight, book flights to Hawaii or submit two job applications.
Then move onto your weekly list, which should comprise all the things you want accomplish in the next seven days. These activities should also link in with what you want to accomplish over the next month. They might include come up with new exercise program, run on-line search to find cheapest flights to Hawaii or attend job interview.
Daily To-Do List
Finally, draw up your daily to-do list, which will include everything you want to accomplish tomorrow. This might include attend Pilates class, book flights or role play job interview.
Ideally, you need to draw up each of these lists in advance, so you know exactly what you’re going to be doing tomorrow and over the next week (or month). For example, draw up your daily to-do list the night before or your weekly list on Sunday night. In this way, you’re not stressing out on Monday morning wondering what you’re meant to be doing. Instead, you can hit the ground running and get stuck in right away.
Once you’ve added something to your annual, monthly, weekly or daily to-do list, cross it off your all-inclusive list.
At this point, you may find there are still some items left on your all-inclusive list. So, you need to establish if the remaining tasks are essential. Many of them may be demands that are being made on you by other people, so you need to make a judgment call about whether or not to include them on one or other of your lists. Ultimately, the aim is just to include tasks and activities that move you (and your family) closer to what you want to accomplish.
You may also look at one of your lists and realize that you simply can’t get through everything you’ve listed, because there aren’t enough hours in the day. If this is the case, you need to prioritize what must be done tomorrow and then roll the remaining tasks over to the following day. Similarly, if there’s too much to do this week, then prioritize the most important tasks and roll the less important items over to the week after.
Where to Create Your Lists
Start by getting a personal organizer, if you don’t already have one. Whether it’s a hard copy journal or an app you can use on your smart phone or tablet is entirely up to you.
Whatever your choice, make sure you can list and diarize an unlimited number of tasks (your all-inclusive list) and create sub-lists equivalent to your annual, monthly, weekly and daily to-do lists. In this way, you can see the big picture right the way through to the daily detail. This gives you a sense of control and relieves your stress level, because you can see at a glance what needs to be done, and when.
Avoid adding commonplace activities to your lists, such as drive to work or cook dinner, because these take place on a regular basis. You already know that you’re going to include them in your daily routine. Instead, focus on including new or additional tasks such as attending a hospital appointment, meeting a client out-of-town or going to the movies.
Keep it short and sweet. Just schedule the next day in detail, and then map out the next week and month in outline. Obviously, you will have various appointments and commitments in your diary going forward, but don’t be tempted to draw up a schedule for every day of the week, every week of the month or every month of the year. If you do this, you run the risk of going into overload and feeling de-motivated by having too much on each of your lists.
When a new task crops up, write it down on your all-inclusive list before making a start on it. This habit puts the task into context with everything else you have on your plate and ensures that it’s properly prioritized and doesn’t jump the queue ahead of other more important things.
Circumstances have the habit of changing quite rapidly, so be flexible and adaptable when drawing up your schedule for the day or week ahead.