I'd dutifully write one to 'organize' myself, but when it came to using it... well, I'd pull it out and have a look... then just keep on looking, wondering where on earth to start.
Not only was it overwhelming, it was massive - often running to three or four pages, and the only thing it ever ended up helping with, was giving me a ginormous guilt trip!
It can be so hard to get a handle on everything that needs doing. I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds they get busier and busier every year - and that their to do list grows longer and longer.
Over the years, I've tried a lot of methods to get that list under control. I've done quadrants and tags, I've divided my life into projects, I've done mind maps and even played around with Gantt charts for goodness sakes!
In the end, I went back to basics: a pen and paper and simple lists. It's fluid and flexible, it's incredibly easy, and it's changed everything!
So today I'd like to share with you my method for keeping that mammoth to do list under control. It's soooo easy, so grab a pen and paper and let's go!
Lets start by not talking about to do's! Lets talk about spheres.
Your 'spheres' are basically the areas in which you do stuff. I have stuff I need to do at home, stuff I need to do at the office, for the blog, in the garden and down the street.
It's pretty simple - when I'm at the office I'm doing office stuff not garden stuff. And when I'm down the street I'm running errands and stuff that needs to be done in that sphere.
Right, so the first thing to do is write down a list of your 'spheres'. Here are some examples to get you started:
- Birthday Parties
- Kinda/School stuff
- Charitable Committees
- Business Projects
- Renovations/Home Improvements
- Errands/Down the Street
2. DEDICATE TIME
It's important that you actually have time dedicated to each sphere.
Some things - like work - already have a scheduled time allocated, but other things, like craft projects, blogging, gardening etc will need you to set aside some time.
Trust me, if you don't dedicate time to your spheres, nothing will get done.
Dedicating time doesn't have to be super specific - I run errands down the street 'when Missy is at dance classes' and I clean the house 'after 5 and before getting dinner ready'.
You don't need hourly chunks or a set schedule, the main thing is is that you say 'during this time I will work on this sphere'.
So go through your list of spheres and make sure you've dedicated time to each, or, if you haven't, that you're ok with putting that sphere on hold for a while.
Now, write the name of each sphere at the top of a separate piece of paper and get ready to...
3. BRAIN DUMP
Jot down everything you can think of onto it's respective list.
Home stuff on the home list, kinda and school stuff on that list
Go and find all your other scribbled notes and lists, and write them all in. Every single thing you can think of.
I'll wait here while you do it... (cue elevator music...)
4. GET RID OF THE SILLY STUFF
How did you go? I bet you thought of loads of stuff for all those lists!
Now is the time to edit them.
Go through each of the lists and cross off the silly stuff. The stuff you really aren't going to do that was wishful thinking
Seriously, if there is ever a time when it's important to scour the patio grout by hand until it's pristine, you can put it back on your list! But get rid of it for now and spend your time doing the stuff that matters.
5. GETTING IT DONE
Righto, so now you have a bunch of lists full of stuff that you need to do.
The trick to actually getting it done, is spending time on each list during the time you have allocated. You know that saying about everything having a season?
If I'm working on my blog, I'm ignoring the stuff that needs doing around the house. And if I'm at the office, I'm doing work stuff not home stuff.
Whatever 'sphere' you're in right now, do that - and forget about all the other stuff - it'll get done in it's own time.
So, what 'sphere' are you in right now?
5. THE RIGHT NOW LIST
I often start one more list, and it's one for what I can do right now.
Even though we've done all this, there can still be heaps of stuff to do, so I make a quick, incremental list of 5 things that I can achieve right now - something like:
- sort photos for post
- write up post
- set and interlink post
- promote on pinterest
- promote on instagram
How easy and achievable is that? A right now list helps you focus, and breaking things down into smaller pieces makes them much easier to do.
Once I finish one list, I just make another one - again, of simple, small things that can be done right now, and when it's time to change spheres, I just start a new 'right now' list for that sphere (it becomes second nature pretty quickly!).
So, grab one more piece of paper, and right down 5 small and simple things you can do right now!
The reason why this method is so effective is two-fold - defining your spheres and giving them time helps you balance your life, whilst making the mini lists, and then the right now list, helps you focus and stops it all being overwhelming.
And getting stuff done means you make progress!
I've found this to be a simple but brilliant way to tackle my mammoth to-do list, and I hope you find it as useful in your life as it's been at transforming mine and helping me get stuff done!
All the best,