Keeping Pace by Using “TO DO” lists

I have noticed a trend across all of my business and casual relationships.  When I ask how they are doing, the universal answer seems to be “I am crazy busy.”  This is usually followed up with a litany of things that this poor soul must endure over a short time frame.  I am no different.  I have felt the dramatic increase in my own pace in recent times.  This isn’t always a bad thing, but it does make me worry about missing the moments that make life enjoyable.  So, how can we take control of our time?  I find creating “TO DO” lists to be very powerful in easing the panic about ‘getting it all done’.  At the very minimum, this act removes items from ‘my head’ and moves it into a concrete place. Whether using an electronic or old fashioned paper list, this classic tool is a great stress reducer.  A few things to consider:

  • Make a master list of everything you want to accomplish.  Then break down each goal into actionable bullets with honest deadlines.  This process helps you to assess what really must be done today and what can really wait to tomorrow (or never!).
  • At the beginning of each day, do something to move you closer to crossing an item off the list.  By accomplishing action items early in the day, you gain a sense of control and accomplishment that can drive your entire day.  Overwhelmed as to where to start– pick an easy one for your immediate frame of mind.
  • Schedule a time for everything you do in a defined period of time.  Either do this daily, 10 minute increments, or take 30 minutes in the beginning of your week to plan out your time and ‘must do’ items for the week.  This routine brings forth a realistic picture of your week.  Don’t let it overwhelm you– use this process to calm your mind and provide a sense of control.  Don’t forget to leave time for breaks– lunch, exercise, etc… these are all part of creating a healthier you!
  • Try to keep your focus on the important things by eliminating the unimportant items.  It is easy to think that everything HAS to happen.  Ask yourself the straightforward question… what will happen to me, my family or relationships if I don’t do this item right now.  Usually the true answer is not life or business threatening.
  • Say NO (nicely)!  Sometimes you just have to say no to relatively unimportant activities.  Be honest that you would love to help, but you just can’t make it work at this time.  People are usually understanding and respect people who have the ability to say no nicely.

I hope these tips help you plan your time.  Gain more control over your time through clearly identifying what are ‘must do’ items.  Once you have them selected, carefully write down the small steps that help you reach those goals.  Once you let go of the stress that accompanies our frantic lives, you may just have a calm sense of accomplishment about you!  Good luck!