How to Conquer Your To-Do List!

We’re in the midst of a Global Pandemic and it looks like we may have a lot of time on our hands.

Depending on where you live, you may be in a lockdown, or perhaps stores are slowly starting to open up. Schools and workplaces may have adjusted their operating hours. I think we can all agree that the world has been forced to slow down and make different decisions than we had a mere year ago. However, this is not the time to let go of all your tasks, goals, and ambitions. This is the ideal time to CONQUER everything on your to-do list! 

With a to-do list (schedule, agenda, whatever you want to call it!), I believe you can make time for rest and relaxation while also working toward your goals/crossing tasks off your to-do list without feeling like you’re working 24/7, which is how I functioned (or malfunctioned) at the beginning of this pandemic. Here are some steps I’ve put in place to make sure I don’t treat this deceleration as an extended “time-out”.

1. Stay organized

This seems obvious! But, it’s super easy to get sidetracked. Some ways to stay organized are to create different to-do lists. Having a Master list can help with tasks you know you’d like to get done long-term. A weekly to-do list can help with all things that need to be done that week. You can even have a list of things you need to get done daily or that need to be done immediately! 

man looking at idea board with lots of papers

Do not mix up goals with your to-do list. For example, one of your goals may be to learn Spanish. That would be a great goal to place on your Long-Term Goals list. If you want to add that to your to-do list, be more specific by writing: “Practice Spanish for 20 minutes on DuoLingo”. This way you know to set aside 20 minutes today where you know you will be using an app to help you get to your long-term goal.

2. Clear Tasks/Goals

Don’t be vague. Get as clear about what you want to achieve as possible! When I train clients, it’s important to get their “SMART” goals so they know exactly what they’re working toward and so that they have more drive to achieve said goals. Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This will paint a clear picture of what you truly want short-term or long-term. Don’t settle for anything less! 

Goal details book

If you are simply making a to-do list full of tasks, Regi Adams of Medium.com swears by the Verb + Object format, and I’ve found it has made my to-do lists more succinct. Verb + object can look like the following examples: “Email Ben the product notes.” or “Meet with Jane to discuss Training schedule.” Eliminate filler words, and you’ve got this nifty minimalist approach that not only makes your to-do list neater but also straight-to-the-point!

3. Respect Boundaries

This one is so tough! So many things to get done, so little time, and a wandering monkey mind. How do you create clear boundaries so that you can get one thing done at a time? Sure, multi-tasking sounds attractive, but we simply cannot do it. Research has proven this time and time again, but we still love to think we might be the exception to the rule! 

red sand hourglass

In order to avoid multitasking, set aside times to work on specific tasks. You may not complete the task by the end, but you will know you put all your effort into that one thing rather than have your mind wandering or flipping your mind on and off. One way to compartmentalize your time is to use the Pomodoro method. Not the Italian Tomato sauce, but the Pomodoro Method! It’s simple! Get a to-do list and a timer. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until the timer rings. When your session ends, mark off one Pomodoro and record what you completed. You then get to enjoy a five-minute break. This method helps you compartmentalize work and play. Feel free to change the work to play ratio if you feel you want to work for longer periods of time.

Another important tip: Stay off your phone! Unless you need it for work, social media will pull you into an endless rabbit hole. We all have 24-hours in a day, so choose wisely how you use those hours. Social media is a dangerous trap when you’re trying to work or complete tasks. Ask yourself if browsing your Instagram account is really necessary, or if you’re simply procrastinating.

4. A simple to-do list is never boring

Don’t go overboard and write down every single thing you need to do if that’s going to stress you out. For example, I don’t need to write down that I need to take my daily supplements since I remember to do this every day. However, I know I need to write down which day to water my plants since it’s such an infrequent habit. 

sticky notes and pens

Choose a format that works for you. Do you prefer writing tasks on paper? On your hand? Downloading an app to keep track of your goals? Writing them on a sticky note on your laptop? Find what works best for you.

I like a mix of sticky notes and an app on my phone. The sticky notes remind me of the immediate things, and I make sure to stick them in places I’ll notice, like on my monitors for work or under the peephole on my front door. I like to keep them at eye-level so I know I can’t miss them! Bright colored sticky notes help too! If you use an app, you can set up the notifications so that you get notified when something is urgent or daily reminders to do certain tasks, such as meditate or take your supplements for the day. I personally like Todoist or Asana, as they provide great free versions!

5. Daily reminders.

Check-in on your goals every single day. Yep. Every day! Even if it’s a long-term goal and you know you won’t achieve it for another year. These reminders are like your little cheerleaders! They keep you accountable. Write the date next to your goals if they are short-term or long-term so that you know how long it took you to achieve them. No need to punish yourself if you didn’t finish a task by the projected end date. Instead, analyze whether or not your goal end-date was feasible in the first place or take a look at your work ethic and re-jig it so you can do something differently next time.

make it happen sticky note in agenda

It’s not easy to focus sometimes. Having things written out as soon as we think of them can help us stay on track with our tasks and goals. Checking off tasks from your to-do list can be extremely fulfilling and give you a sense of accomplishment, and this, in turn, will help you feel more motivated to stay organized. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t, and you’ll eventually find your own reliable system, leading you to complete all of your to-do lists, big and small!


Resources:

Books:

  • The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw

Alexia Palmeri

Alexia Palmeri is a 28-year-old personal development enthusiast! She looks at life experiences as an opportunity to always learn and grow. Alexia is also a broadcast journalism graduate with a passion and knack for communications and media. She is always on the lookout for new trends on social media and keeps up to date with what's happening in the world. In her free time, Alexia enjoys socializing with family and loved ones, being in nature, cooking nourishing meals, and discovering new places to dine and adventure!

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