We all have a mountain of things to do. Some things need to be done right away, some tomorrow and some can be done later, as long as they all get done. But what if they don’t? What happens if the things you were supposed to do today end up slipping through the cracks? Tomorrow’s agenda then grows in size and there’s a bigger chance of even more things slipping out to the next day. After a couple of days, your agenda becomes too big to manage and so it’s discarded. Your life is thrown into chaos as you no longer plan your days and activities.
Chaos is sometimes a very good thing. It can give you time to forget about the day-to-day and reconnect with what really matters in life. But! And there’s always a “but”. All those activities that are on your agenda are still there. They don’t just disappear and they will eat away at the back of your mind until you can ignore them no longer.
The same is true if you’re using a task management application such as Wunderlist or Wunderkit. The tasks that you have marked to do “today” will more than likely continue to grow and grow. In fact it can grow to the point where you become fearful of even opening your task list because you know that as soon as you do, all these reminders, red flags and “overdue” messages will overwhelm you. And when the thought of doing all those things becomes too much, you will probably close the application and ignore them, throwing yourself back into chaos.
There are two ways I’d like to share with you here that can help you get back in control of your growing monster of a task list.
1. Working Bees
You already know that you’re list of things to do is immense and the longer you put them off, the more there’s going to be to do. There may even be so many things to do that you can’t do them all in one day, in fact, that is highly likely.
Remember “working bees” from school days? A day when parents, friends and staff would all chip in and get a whole bunch of things done, fixed and built around the place? Why not apply the same principle to your task list.
Set aside one day, a full day, some time in the next week or two – don’t schedule it too far out otherwise you’ll be tempted to put if off when the time comes. Make sure you have absolutely no other plans for that same day. Now, put an entry in your calendar for that date that starts at 9am and runs through to 6pm.
Don’t set yourself a specific number of tasks to do on that day, and don’t worry about reviewing your life before the day. Just put the time in your diary/calendar.
When your day has arrived, open your task list and first look at everything that is overdue. Take the top-most task and…. do it! Avoid interruptions and distractions by removing them – turn your phone and computer off (unless you need them for your task of course). Focus and do nothing else until that task is complete. Then, tick it off your list and get that warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. Then tackle the next task that is at the top of the list. Repeat for the entire day and you’ll be amazed at just how much you’ll get done.
When you have a task that you’re unable to complete, but have started on, tick off the original task and create a new one that clearly explains what you need to do next to get the job done. This new task should go at the end of your normal list, not on the agenda for today.
The secret here is making progress and finding motivation. The more things you can tick off, the more you’re training your brain to get things done.
By the time 6pm comes you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride at what you’ve been able to do. It’s possible that you’ll still have tasks on your list that need attention, but that’s ok. You’ve been able to smash through a lot of them in a day and now you know what you’re capable of.
Ideally you’d like to avoid these Working Bees and tackle your list on a daily basis, but now and then you’re going to need one. You might even like to make them a habit! Schedule the Working Bee in your calendar to repeat on a monthly basis. You’re todo list will never look healthier!
2. Hard-Ass Review
The alternative is to clean up your list. Set aside 2 hours in your calendar within the next 3 days. When the time comes, eliminate any distractions and open your task list. Feel free to shudder a little when you see the number of things to do. Starting at the top of your “overdue” list, decide if the task is still relevant. Does it still need to be completed? If not, delete it! Take no prisoners here – if it’s not absolutely necessary, remove it. If it does still need to be taken care of, then decide when it should be done by. Can you complete it within the next 7 days? If so, set the due date for it then enter 90 mins to 2 hours in your calendar before or on that date to get it done. Repeat this for all the tasks on your overdue list, then move to the next most important list, and so on. Once you have filled up 7 days in your calendar, enter an hour at the end and call it “Review Lists”. This is your time to keep up to date on your task list and schedule what you’ll be able to accomplish in the 7 days following.
As new tasks arise, add them to the end of your list and review their importance at the next “Review Lists” time. This way you’ll always be keenly aware of what’s on your list, what’s coming up, and exactly what you need to do this week.
The trick to the success of this is to stick to your calendar! When it’s time to do that task, put everything else down and DO IT! When the time is up and you need to move on, tick the task off and if there’s still more to do, create a new task at the end of your list.
There are many ways to manage a task list, but when it’s left un-maintained for a while, it’s like a jungle – it becomes overgrown, hard to get through and just plain scary. Hack through the weeds to get things done with working bees and hard-ass reviews and your jungle will quickly become a Garden of Eden.