Feeling overwhelmed by your mile-long to-do list? Check out these tips for how to own your to-do list!
Every Monday morning, I pour every little thing I might need to do that week onto a sheet of paper. I love lists. They make me feel more in control, which when you’re life is run by 2 little boys, being in control of some fraction of your life is a nice feeling. But sometimes the list is daunting, which instead of alleviating stress, causes more stress instead. This week my list consisted of people I needed to contact, posts I needed to write, assignments that needed completing, items that needed to be bought or paid, things that needed to be cleaned, appointments that needed to be made.. and that’s just the beginning. When you leave a to-do brainstorming session (<– it’s a thing.) and leave with 2 pages of notes, you know you’ll have a crazy week. So how do you own your to-do list so that you don’t get overwhelmed?
Today I’m going to be sharing my favorite tips and tricks for rocking your to-do list! Be sure to stay through to the bottom for an awesome set of free printables to help get you started!
How to Own Your To-Do List
Get it all out.
Sit down and do a brain dump – spend 5 solid minutes with zero distractions and write down every single minuscule task that needs to be done. Add everything to this list – from workouts to remembering to throw out that container of hummus to scooping the cat box. If it’s not something like playing with your kids, making dinner, or going to work, write it down. Writing it all down will get it out of your head and into a more manageable and tangible space, which will relieve stress. Not having all of those thoughts bouncing around and crashing in your brain frees it up for more important matters.
Either by writing it in a new list, highlighting or adding some kind of symbol, break down your list into categories – work, home, family etc. I want you to PHYSICALLY do it. Don’t just look at it and mentally organize it. If you want, you can also eliminate second nature tasks if desired, like things you already remember to do daily. Personally, I like leaving them since crossing items off of a list is almost euphoric to me. To each her own.
What things have to get done? Are there things that can wait? Make sure that the “must-dos” stay at the top of your list and get done. The “should-dos” can follow and be completed as time allows after your big ones are done. This is so important. If you’re like me, you tend to do your little, easy tasks first because instant gratification is nice. But then your important stuff never gets done. If you see your important tasks at the very top, you are less likely to ignore them.
This is something I am working on myself since I feel like as a SAHM I should be able to do allthethings all by myself. But the reality is you cannot do everything and sleep a reasonable amount. Truth. What tasks on your list would be better completed by someone else? Can you hand some over to your husband or kids? If you have the funds, can you pay someone to do some? A great tip my dad taught me is to put an hourly rate on your own time. So if you value your time at $50 an hour, and something will take you 2 hours to complete, it is costing you $100 of time you could be using on something profitable. Can you pay someone less than or equal to that to do it for you?
Get help when needed.
Going along with the previous one, this is so important if you have littles and something I’m JUST now realizing. If you have people in your life who are willing (or, in my case, begging) to take over watching the kids for a few hours while you get stuff done, DO IT. My MIL comes over once or twice a week while Alex is at work and watches the boys while I go and do blog work or get some grocery shopping done or whatever on my list that is easier to do without kids. You’re saving time and sanity by asking people who WANT to help you to do just that. You are still super mom if you ask for help, trust me.
Choose 3-5 items.
Each morning, choose 3-5 tasks that absolutely need to get done that day. What are the 3 things that if you get NOTHING else done but these, you’ll be happy? This helps to set realistic goals for your time and abilities, relieving stress that is often associated with your to-do list. If you get those done, the rest is a bonus.
Work through in cycles.
Remember how you categorized your list earlier? Put that into action. Do one task from each category in a cyclical manner, finishing each task completely before moving onto the next one. I find this is the best way for me to not get bored or distracted when I’m trying to knock-off a bunch of my tasks. A timer is a fabulous tool for making sure you stay on task and don’t spend too much time on one category. Sometimes rather than doing one task at a time, I’ll do 15 minutes of blog work then 15 minutes of cleaning and so on and so forth.
Reevaluate how you’re using your time.
Are you not completing as many tasks as you should be able to? Where is your time going? If you were to ask me (and about 2/3 of the world, I’m sure) social media is where my time gets sucked. I go on to check one little thing and then an hour later I’m 8 tabs deep and I still haven’t checked what I came on for. I found this Google Chrome extension really eye opening – it tells you how long you have spent on each page. Once you have determined where your time goes, think of ways to combat that. Maybe delete the app off your phone of add a blocker to your computer that blocks a webpage after you’ve been on it for a predetermined amount of time.
Know that it won’t all get done.
I know. This is hard for me too. But the reality is, your entire to-do list will never get 100% completed. There will be things that just don’t get done. There are things that will always need to be done. (I’m looking at your laundry) Move it to your next to-do list and try for it next week. If you move it to 3 to-do lists and still have not finished that item, take a step back and evaluate why. Is it not a true priority? Is there an emotional reason you’re not finishing it? Commit to either dropping the task altogether or finishing it within 3 days. Set finite boundaries for yourself.
Looking for more ways to organize your to-do list to help you own it? I created these awesome printables just for you! These awesome to-do list weekly worksheets are perfect for organizing each week’s to-do’s in each category of your life. Each sheet has a spot for tasks that are completed daily as well as check marks to correspond with each day. Below there are lines and check boxes for your weekly to-dos. Click the button below to sign up for my newsletter and receive your set of printables. I tried to think of every category you may need, but a blank one is also provided if I missed one!
So tell me – does your to-do list stress you out? Do you love lists as much as I do? What are your favorite ways to rock your to-do list? Let me know in the comments!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy these!
How to Make Your Own Cleaning Schedule
The Only Rule You Need to Maintain a Tidy Home
5 Tips for When You are Overwhelmed
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
Putting this on my to do list 😀 Actually, we were talking about something like this in my mastermind group yesterday, totally going to share!
Such a great post! I’m the queen of to do lists and you have some great ones here 🙂
Heather @ Polyglot Jot says
This is great–I love lists!! I always feel more productive when I can physically see all that I’m getting done.
Julie @ Running in a Skirt says
What a great resource! I live by lists. I’d say one of my biggest issues is figuring out what can realistically be done in a day. I often think I can to way too much and get disappointing when it’s not done. I’ve gotten sooo much better at that, but it’s a work in progress.
Yes! I totally agree, it’s a constant struggle. Lately, I’ve been trying to purposely undershoot it, so that I either accomplish MORE than I set out to or exactly what I planned. That way I don’t get frustrated and disappointed.
Now that I’m home, I’m going to have a goal of owning my to-do list, especially a meal prep to-do list!
yay! I love the idea of a meal prep to-do list!
I definitely need something like this… I am back and forth with to do list. Sometimes I’m on it and sometimes I write them down and then forget about it. It does feel really good to check something off though!
Sometimes a good list making/brain dump is all you really need though! Just a chance to get it all out of your head instead of it jumbling around and driving you nuts!
alexandra @ my urban family says
Setting realistic goals are something I need to work on. I end up telling myself I need to get 10 things done that day and then when I get 7 things done I’m unhappy. If only I could shoot for 5 things and then be thrilled with 7 ha.
YESSS. My life story. I get so frustrated and then I look at me list and I’m like.. how on Earth did I think I would get all of that done? hahha
I feel like I make way to many lists but it seems to work for me. This is a great post, thank you! ?
I’m the same way – thanks for stopping by Kristen!
Vicky Elizabeth says
This is great! As someone who lives on to-do lists, I know the importance of taking a break over a long weekend. Thanks!
Sometimes you definitely just need to throw it out the window and relax!
Kendall Patton says
Nice tips here! I know I am getting back to making to-do lists for myself as well. I’ve gotten out of the habit, but really do love crossing things off the list! I also started using an app on my phone that reminds me of things I know I really wanted to get done each day, which really helps!
I’ve tried a few different apps, but I can never find one I like enough to keep using. I think I just really like the whole pen and paper thing!
Jessie @ The Acquired Sass says
I started actually only making my to-do list 3 items long. I pick the 3 that really truly need to get done that day, & sometimes assign a bonus item. It made me stress less, and 3 items seems really do-able. I always felt like I was never making progress on a long list, but with only 3 items, by the time I’m done with 1 I am halfway through.
I also love the outsource tip. I think people don’t necessarily value their time like they should.
I love your outlook on your to-do list! Especially how you can see having one thing done as HALF of your list done. I’m sure it’s easier to motivate yourself to finish your list that way!
And I totally agree – people do NOT value their own time enough.
Amanda @ .running with spoons. says
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to live without my lists and my planner. Err… make that multiple planners. I really love keeping detailed to-do lists, but I also follow the “Top 3” approach pretty closely and stick to 3 things that I HAVE to accomplish that day. If I get them done and have more time to accomplish other things, great! If not… no harm done. I feel like we’re always under the impression that the world will implode if we don’t finish ALL the things, but somehow… they always get done.
The top 3 thing is something I had to start once I had kids, because I never know how much/how little free time I’ll have, so it forces me to knock out the big/important stuff first rather than hold off for later but then not get the time!
And YES! It’s not the end of the world to not do EVERYTHING right now – in fact, sometimes I’ll find when I push something off to the next day or whatever that I didn’t even really need to do it in the first place! Win-win.
Donna (Just One Donna) says
I’ve never been a list person. Periodically, I’ll try making lists and then just give them up. Most of the time it feels like I could get more done if I just got busy instead of writing a list. The only time I really need a list is when I have a big, complex project like a kitchen remodel or planning a holiday celebration. That way I’m sure not to forget an important part of the plan. Your checklist format would be helpful to someone like me for those kinds of projects. I’m working on an editorial calendar for blogging. Your “how to” list has given me some things to think about as I refine it. Thanks.
It’s so interesting to me that you don’t use lists since I rely on them so heavily! And ooh! I love a good editorial calendar! Mine is my lifeline. Let me know if you have any questions, I would love to help!
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom says
I love to-do lists too. I would be lost without them! Plus I have a planner (the Passion Planner) which keeps me on track for my daily tasks!
You have great tips here!
Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).
Wishing you a lovely day!
I’ll have to check out that planner! I still haven’t found one I love. Thanks, Jennifer!
My to-do lists are totally manageable. The question is do I ever complete them? Meh… sometimes. Haha. I try really hard to stay organized and I actually am really organized, I just find it hard to get everything in every day. #life
I definitely have a bad habit of putting more on my list that I could ever manage in a day. That’s why I LOVE making a top 3-5 item list so at least I always check that off!
I really like your blogging to do list. I have a bullet journal that i use to mind dump in everyday. It definitely helps me stay organized. Great info.
I have a bullet journal as well but sometimes the process of setting it up is too time consuming for me, ha!
Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday says
Wow. I love these! I really need to get back into real list-making. It sounds crazy, but I sometimes get too overwhelmed to make them (right now), so that’s a thing I’m working on. Right now, I just have Post-Its everywhere. My desk/room is a little chaotic. ?
No, I TOTALLY get that! There are definitely days when I’m like, if I write this all down, then the amount I have to accomplish is real and I am not ready to face that kind of reality, ha! I wish I could do the post it thing, but I just envision Ryan pulling them all down and Cooper eating them… and then I would never remember what I was missing!!
Kristy @ Southern In Law says
The type A side of me loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees this post.
I am the queen of to do lists and love nothing better than crossing off every single thing. It doesn’t happen all the time and it definitely doesn’t happen every day, but it’s so satisfying when it does! Usually I have a daily to-do list, a weekly to-do list and then a longer term to-do list (that’s the one that doesn’t usually get completely ticked off as I just keep adding to it!)
I get SUCH a high when I finish an entire to-do list. And girl, my long term list… it’s problematic with how long it is!!
Lauren Bishop says
I love your printables and the idea of having a weekly tasks that carry throughout the week. I tend to re-write them everyday which is such a waste of time. Thanks for that tip.
Thanks, Lauren! That’s the exact reason I wanted to make it – to save time! I’m so glad you found it useful!
I’m amazed how this works for folks. I’m not a list maker except the grocery list. I guess it is all stored up inside my head. It works for me though. I love how intentional you are with this. Great job.
Hey, whatever works for you, right?! I love seeing how people handle life in different ways – for me, having it all in my head drives me nuts!
Jamie @ Medium Sized Family says
Really great idea to do a brain dump like this. I find myself worrying over things in cycles until I write them down. That instantly makes me feel like I have more control over my to dos. I have been trying to hand out tasks to my kids on summer break so I don’t have to do it all myself. Pinning this!
Yes! Once I can see everything in one place it feels tangible and managable. I cannot wait to be able to hand tasks out to my boys 😉 THanks, Jaime!
Whitney LaDon says
I love your tips! Very practical. I especially love your ideas about outsourcing, and choosing 3-5 tasks in the morning. I’m not a morning person, so my mornings sometimes get me off on the wrong foot–I think this tip could really help!
I’m with ya – I am NOT a morning person, definitely a night owl over here! Choosing only a few things I need to accomplish definitely helps me get the day started on the right foot!
Donna @ Soul Survival says
Morgan, I love lists! You hit all my hot buttons with this post! I keep a master list all the time, roughly broken down into categories. I keep it on my computer so I can easily move things around. For years I used a Franklin Day Planner and wrote out the next night’s list each night, prioritizing as I did. These days I pull the priority tasks up to the top in a separate box. I always say I’m going to just have a short daily list, but it usually ends up being things that are realistically going to get done this week and not all today.
I really did enjoy your post and there were several things I’ll be incorporating! BTW I stopped by from Mom’s the Word today. Blessings!
Lists definitely make life so much easier!! I’ve tried putting my lists on my computer, but it’s just not as effective as I would like for me. So I stick to plain old pen and paper! Thanks for stopping by, Donna!
Jenny @ Unremarkable Files says
Such great tips! I 100% agree about just writing it al down and getting it out of your head. I waste an enormous amount of mental energy carrying around a to-do list in my head and trying to remember everything when it’s easier to just write it down. I have it on a whiteboard on my wall by my computer and calendar.
Yes! Just thinking about having all of that stuff in my head gives me anxiety!!
Daile Fordoski says
Lots of great advice to making your to do list more productive. I write a to do list everyday, I will definitely be taking your advice. Thanks for sharing #TurnItUpTuesday
Oh, I’m so glad I could be of help, Daile! Thanks for stopping by!
Tanya @ Moms Small Victories says
I’m a total printables junkie and list maker. I love how you segmented your daily and weekly tasks for different areas of your life. Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday Linkup. Pinning to our linkup board and hope you found some great posts to visit this week!
I’m right there with you – my printer and I are BFF’s 😉 Thanks for stopping by, Tanya!
Jessica-Faithful Farmwife says
I am obsessed with lists!!! This is definitely a great post with awesome tips!
Chloe Crabtree says
Oh, that last one about accepting that not everything will get done…that is a hard one for me. I will try to work toward accepting that one.
I do this at work but never at home, I seem to think that I can hold all my at home things in my head! I’m going to try this as too many things have been missed or remembered in the nick of time recently! Thanks
Thanks for the printables. You are right, I need to “segment” my list so I don’t get overwhelmed with a very long list. Dropping by from Creative Ways Link party 😀
Sandra Garth says
I love lists and on occasion I will write down something I did that wasn’t on the list just so I can cross it off.
Thank you for those great tips! This is very timely too.
Nikki Frank-Hamilton says
I am definitely a list girl, and yes, just like you I get a real charge of seeing things marked off the list. On a rough day I might put “get out of bed” just to see it marked off the list! LOL I love the way that you prioritize the day’s items, important stuff at the top, this way I can take a deep breath each time these things are completed.
Janet Vinyard says
Hi Morgan, Great post! I love to-do lists and your printables are very nice! Thanks for sharing! Blessings, Janet