Is it only me, or does September begin, and all of a sudden you have a million things to get done? Long to-do lists infuriate me. It’s one thing when my work to do list is long but when my personal one is also extremely long, I suddenly feel overwhelmed and the urge to freeze up appears. As an advertising professional, entrepreneur, and blogger, balancing my free time can be tricky. If I’m not at the gym, I’m catching up with friends, attending an event, running errands, or working on my brand.
While it’s vital to complete your daily tasks, it’s equally important to allocate time to yourself. One of my favorite quotes by Oprah is “”Your real work is to figure out where your power base is. And to work on the alignment of your personality — your gifts that you have to give — with the real reason why you’re here. That’s the number one thing you have to do, is to work on yourself…and to fill yourself up, and keep your cup full. Keep yourself full.” What she means by this is spend every day fulfilling your life purpose. That way you can serve others, stand for something, and leave your mark. Ensure that your to do lists align with your power base.
When you execute with purpose, your tasks don’t seem so daunting. Even if you have to start small, at least start. Don’t seek perfection. Get your ideas down and flesh them out from there. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. Start small, don’t set your standards to high, and grow from there. For instance, if you want to start working out, start with a 20-minute workout. As time goes on, you’ll find your groove and increase your workout level. Here’s some ways to conquer your lengthy to-do list:
1. Pinpoint your priority. If you don’t have time to do things it’s because you haven’t distinguished your priority in that given time period. Ask yourself “which tasks if done first, will make all the rest of these relevant?” Then start with that task. Stop giving everyone your attention before accomplishing your most important task. It’s easy to get distracted. And the next thing you know, an hour has passed and you haven’t gotten your task completed. Start with the difficult tasks first and do the easiest things last. You’ll feel more accomplished and you’ll ease your way into the end of your day.
2. Categorize your to do list. Separating my personal, business, and work to-dos helps me compartmentalize everything I want to get done. Also, don’t give yourself an unrealistic number of tasks to complete. Through trial and error, determine a “healthy” daily to-do list. I like to write out a list of weekly to dos that will help me achieve my monthly goals. Then I allocate my weekly to dos to specific days. I enjoy physically checking off items when I’ve completed them. I keep my work to dos on a notepad and my personal/business to do’s in my planner.
3. Set deadlines. Setting personal time restraints stifles procrastination and fosters productivity.
4. Seek help. When I started my first job out of college, I volunteered for as many tasks as I could. I also didn’t ask for help as much as I should have. A couple months in, I had a check in with my manager and she told me a story about how she wished she asked for help more early on and didn’t try to do it all herself. She explained that strong leaders delegate tasks. After hearing that story, I decided to seek help from my co-workers more often. That lifted a huge weight off my shoulder. Delegating work not only made the quality of my work much better but it also led to stronger relationships with my co-workers.
5. Focus. A study done at King’s College showed that people who were stoned scored 6 points higher than people were interrupted by email or their cell phone. Do your best to focus on one task at a time. For instance, try working for 20 minutes and taking a 5-minute break. Repeat that cycle until you’ve completed your task. People will always tell you they need something immediately even if they don’t need it. Set boundaries and articulate them people. If you need to work on a task and don’t have time to instantly respond to someone’s email, tell them that. Not only will you feel like a boss doing so, you’ll also be much more productive.
I encourage you to start executing one of the five tips above. Slowly work your way into applying all five to your life and be mindful of how much you progress.