My Latest To-Do List Strategy

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I used to really be annoyed when people would say it’s impossible to get it all done. Even highly accomplished self-help authors and organizing and productivity gurus.

Mainly because I believe strongly that anything is possible and find it annoying when people deem anything impossible, even the seemingly impossible feat of having a to-do list of exactly zero items.

It’s Okay If It’s Not All Done

I still don’t agree with the statement that it’s impossible. But I believe I have finally come to a place where I can be okay with the fact that it isn’t all done.

I think I am finally accepting this because I will be 36 tomorrow. For years I saw 35 as my target age where I would figure out how to have everything in my life exactly the way I wanted it. This includes having an extremely manageable to-do list.

As the reality of 35 passing me by without figuring it all out is setting in, I am faced with two options:

  1. I could get super depressed about not having things exactly the way I would have wanted them to be by now, or
  2. I could accept things as they are while continuing to work towards my goals and dreams, and find a way to manage my life that works for me, even if that means not having everything done (yet)

When I say have everything done, I do realize that there will always be things that aren’t done because they don’t need to be done yet or they haven’t even been dreamed up yet. That is what life is. But I aspire to one day not have things to do that really needed to have been taken care of weeks or (cringe) months ago.

I want to live with the freedom and peace of mind that the things that need to be done or taken care of are handled and enjoy the bliss of time for breaks and rest and relaxation without the associated task hangover because there is just too much to be done that there really isn’t time for breaks. You know?

Choose Your 3 Most Important Tasks

I will always be searching for the next great productivity hack and ways to make life better and get more done in less time and with less effort. For now, I have decided to apply the concept of choosing my 3 most important tasks each day. I learned this productivity technique first from Leo Babauta several years ago.

The idea is simple: out of your sea of to-do items, pick 3 and only 3 of them that if you got nothing else done that day, you would still fee accomplished if you got these 3 things done. They should be meaningful enough that crossing them off the list would help you move forward in life, but not so big that they are impossible to cross off in one day.

I started doing this again this past week. I noticed that the first few days I did it I managed to get all 3 things done. But then as the week went on I started getting anxious that I really needed to be getting more done so I would either put a task that was too large on my list or add more things to my list and make what was supposed to be a a very short list of 3 items an overwhelming and junky mess that made me feel discouraged.

Choosing your 3 most important tasks is best done the afternoon or evening before rather than first thing in the morning. I read a few articles that talked about the benefits of choosing the items the night before, including giving your mind the opportunity to start working on the big issues while you sleep and taking away one less decision that needs to be made in the morning. By choosing these 3 tasks the night before, you can apply your most mentally alert time of day to getting straight to those 3 tasks.

After choosing the 3 most important tasks, choose the worst one to do first. That is, the one you would rather procrastinate on because you are dreading it for whatever reason. Get it over with and you will feel better about yourself and more motivated to get other things done all day. This does work!

Although it is definitely tempting to put more than 3 items on the list, it is better to stick with only 3. I have to remind myself that I can do more things after I get those 3 things done.

Currently, I am working on putting less pressure on myself to get it all done, while still aspiring to be a person who isn’t behind. I know it is possible and am not giving up, I am just giving myself a bit of a break while I continue to figure it out.

Do you stress out about having too much to do? What do you do to feel better about it?



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