I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while. And that is: sustainable to-do lists.
Being sustainable with your to-do list and energy is arguably one of the essential focuses and skills you can work on.
It is a conscious effort to be intentional, but in return, it can help you be more efficient with your time, it can help you reduce your stress and overall be happier.
There are so many elements of sustainable task lists, from knowing WHAT to, right through to what to do when random tasks arise throughout the day.
In this post, we are going to focus on the latter...
Before I jump into the process of how to manage those tasks that arise throughout the day, I want to start with the night before.
THE TO-DO LIST ITSELF
I need to start with this: write your to-do list the night before.
It will enable you to tie the day off into a nice neat little bow, and you will be able to hit the ground running the next morning.
One more thing to add about the initial to-do list before we jump into the real challenge: the random tasks that you just think of or arise as you go about your day.
I recommend having 6 items on your to-do list, with 3 main points and 3 further points that can be taken forward to the next day if need be.
This combo works well and is very easy to implement in your life: simply write the 3-6 things you need to do the next day.
This method teaches you to prioritise.
So now we have addressed some fundamentals of the to-do list, let's talk about the real monster here...
THE TASK CREEPER
Task creeping is a real thing.
Let me paint you a picture that I will bet you know so well.
You set off with great intentions.
You have your top 3-6 things that you want to do with the day ahead.
Perhaps you start strong, and you are building momentum, and then it happens...
The task creeper.
I like to think of the task creeper as a monster that creeps up on you and dumps a load of tasks when you least expect or need it.
Whether you get an email ping over.
Or a thought pops into your head.
Maybe even someone approaches you via a call or in-person with a bunch of tasks to complete.
It can be overwhelming.
So what is the solution? How to do you tackle the Task Creeper?
The answer is, you don't.
In fact, thinking that you CAN tackle the Task Creeper is the first mistake.
By giving the Task Creeper attention, you are giving focus to the overwhelm and that is far from helpful.
Instead, you are going to manage the Task Creeper.
Here is what that process looks like...
WORKING WITH THE TASK CREEPER
- Take your pre-planned to-do list.
- Add in the tasks that the Task Creeper adds.
- Estimate how long each task will take, write this time in brackets next to the task.
- Outside of the brackets, note down the time you think it will take, less 25%. What we want to do here is to establish Parkinson's law. You can read about the law here.
- Now, from looking at the time estimates (work on the time within the brackets), work out what you realistically have time for. Also, please note that you should be picking the things that are the most important out of the TOTAL list ( your original tasks plus the Task Creeper's tasks).
- Now the default is to think that EVERYTHING is urgent and it ALL needs to be done today. Rarely that is the case.
- So what do you do with the tasks that are not making today's list? You should create an URGENT and IMPORTANT list. And a NOT URGENT but IMPORTANT list. File them away here. These two lists will make up the rest of your weeks list.
- One important factor here is that you should include one non-negotiable to this daily list. A non-negotiable is something that you do without fail, every day, without question or internal debate. Think of it as a SUPER habit. Ideally, this non-negotiable is something that supports your goals, such as, for 90 minutes a day you work on your business. This idea is from the book 'Build Your Business in 90 Minutes a Day', side note, it totally worth a read.
So, there you have it. Your process for working WITH the Task Creeper, not against it.
One thing that I do want to mention is to think about what is and isn't working with your current way of managing the 'what' part of the to-do list.
For clarity, here is a personal example of mine. After much trialling many note-keeping apps, I realised that I personally would thrive with 2.
Let me explain...
The main note-keeping app is the one that I use for my life management. It has everything in there from handwritten notes through to course notes and everything in between.
For this, I use OneNote. I have found it to be the best one for organisation.
But the second app I use is Bear. I use it to collect my two lists.
The main reason for this (and it is so simple) is because when I was on the go and had to make a quick note, I had to ensure I wasn't on an irrelevant note within OneNote, then find the right list.
I would be in a rush, so I would either not make the note or put the note under an irrelevant note.
It seems lazy, but the key is to understand how you work and what you can do for you.
It may seem a little silly to have 1 note-keeping app for two lists but now I know I can access those two lists as and when I need.
The takeaway here is to identify what is causing you to fall off track with your note keeping and time management and see what solution there is.
Create your two lists (urgent and important) and (not urgent and important).
Write out your to-do list for tomorrow.
I hope this has given some food for thought when it comes to being intentional with your to-do list. Let us know your to-do list tips and tricks over on Instagram!