Conquer Your Daily To-Do-List Like a Boss
Does just looking at your daily to-do list make you want to cry? Here’s how to use that stress to stay on top of all the things.
If you'd rather watch than read this post, click the player below to catch my Top 3 tips. Yay for options!
Want to show your to-do list who's boss? Check it!
I am definitely a list person. In fact, if I don’t write things down, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll forget them. Keeping lists helps me to get all of the things I’m supposed to remember out of my head so I can think straight.
But sometimes (a lot of times) those daily to-do lists can get way out of control. Which can become it’s own kind of stress. If you relate to that feeling, I have some tricks to help you use that nervous energy to get that to-do list under control.
1. Get organized
Spending a little time getting organized can save you time in the long run. Getting organized helps you create a plan to use your time efficiently. Plus, being organized makes you feel more calm and in control. All good things, yes? Using a planner or apps like Evernote, Anylist, or Asana to organize your daily to-do list can make it really simple.
If organization isn't one of your strengths, check out How to Be More Organized over at Abbey Mae. She gives some great tips to make organization doable for the creative, free-spirited crowd.
2. Include “good-for-you” tasks on your daily to-do list
It can be hard to justify spending time on fun stuff when you’re busy and have lots to do. So if you have to include having fun, hanging out with your fam, or self care on your daily to-do list to make sure they happen, so be it. At least if you include them on your list you’ll get to feel productive when you check them off!
I have literally had to put “do something fun” and “do something for self care” reminders in my planner to make sure that they happen everyday. It probably seems ridiculous, but those things are important! And I do notice that when I’m having a crappy day, it’s because one of those “tasks” wasn’t done. Give it a try! We are much more productive when our minds are happy and fresh.
Related: How to Balance Your Daily Life
3. Try batching
Batching is a really cool trick I learned recently. Batching means doing similar tasks at the same time. Batching similar tasks saves you the time it takes to set up, which helps you get more done in less time.
A good example of how batching can save you time is checking messages and texts. Researchers found that young adults check their phones an average of 85 times per day! That means, every few minutes, we stop what we’re doing, pull our phones out, open an app, let it load, scroll through, just to answer 1 message at a time. Believe it to not, all of those “quick” checks add up to HOURS throughout the day!
If instead, you were to only check your phone once an hour, you could get through all of your messages at once and save the time it takes to pull them all up individually. Plus, batching minimizes interruptions and helps you get the other work on your to-do list done faster too. Batching is also a great technique for things like chores, college essays, and studying for finals.
Related: 8 Smart Ways to Be More Productive
4. Try The Pomodoro Technique
A great way to practice batching is to use the Pomodoro Technique. The basic idea is to stay on 1 task for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. After that, you can return to the same task or switch to a new one. Once you complete 4 cycles, you get a 25-minute break. The Pomodoro Technique a great way to stay focused and get your to-do list checked off quickly.
This technique has been a HUGE game changer for me. It helps me overcome procrastination, forces me to take breaks, and helps me to stay focused so things actually get done. If you want to give it a try, you can simply set a timer on your phone or download an app.
If there are tasks on your daily to-do list that can be done by someone else or would be faster with help, than why not do it? If it’s hard for you to ask for help or hand over control to someone else, (and I say this with great love) you have to get over it, Darling. Think about it. A huge part of any boss’s job is delegation, so it’s a skill you’ll be needing in the future anyway. (Right, my ambitious one? )
My brother was great at delegating when we were growing up. “Hey, can I throw in some of my clothes in the wash with yours?” “Hey, if you’re making yourself a sandwich, could you make me one too?” I never minded doing him favors like this because they took minimal effort (see batching above) and it definitely saved him some time!
Take a note from my brother and ask your sister to let you toss some of your clothes in with hers, ask your mom if she can grab you the poster-board you need for your project while she’s at Target, and get your group members to actually do their part of the group project. It will free up some much needed time for you. Don’t feel bad about delegating. You would do it for someone else in a heartbeat, wouldn’t you?
6. Make some cuts to your daily to-do list
If there is anything on your daily to-do list you can get away with skipping, seriously, just do it. It can be scary, but it feels so good to just let some things go.
Sometimes you have to let little bad things happen (like getting a $2 late fee at the library) to prevent bigger bad things from happening (like staying up too late the night before an exam). And if you don’t trim your to-do list yourself, things tends to cut themselves out when you forget or run out of time. Making the cuts to your list yourself actually gives you control over what you accomplish.
When I was a Sophomore, I was in this ridiculously hard Honors English class. The homework was out of control. WAY more than any of my other classes. And English just wasn’t a strength or interest of mine. It was a tough decision for me at the time, but I decided to drop to the regular section instead. It saved me hours of homework each night and I never regretted it.
So maybe you don’t have to play on all 3 teams this season. Maybe you don’t have to do Student Government AND Model UN. Get rid of something less important so you can do really well on the things that matter most to you.
7. Get used to it
As good as it feels to cross things off your daily to-do list, it isn’t realistic to expect it to stay empty for long. (Or maybe ever!) You might have noticed that things get added to your list about as quickly as they get checked off. This is normal for busy people. So maybe seeing a long to-do list is something to just accept and get used to so it doesn’t stress you out.
I’ve personally changed my attitude toward my to-do list from “Agh! I have to get all of this done!” to “These would all be good things to do. Which one can I get done before dinner?”. That simple change has been a huge help!
So don’t let that to-do list ruin your day. Use that stress to take control over your schedule and get the most important things done so you have time left over to enjoy yourself. Letting your daily to-do list run your life becomes a bad habit that’s hard to break. So you might as well learn how to break free now!