“How the heck can I get all this done?!”
My heart’s beating faster as a trickle of sweat drips down my forehead. It’s Sunday evening and I’m planning my calendar for the next week.
Once again, I’ve taken on more than I can chew. I have to write content for three blogs. Do research for a book I’m working on. Schedule social media for the week. Go to a few work meetings. Workout. Go grocery shopping. And bae has a rare 4 days off so I need to leave some free time to go out and have a dinner date or a romantic walk in the park. Maybe even a day out of London.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Between work commitments, passion projects, household chores and a social life, my to-do list is 10 pages long. There’s no way I can get it all done.
But… what if I don’t have to?
Surely, there must be a way to declutter your to-do list and make it less overwhelming so you can reach your goals without burning out? Here are the strategies I’ve learned over the years to lighten my load AND slay my goals:
Step 1: Do A Brain Dump
Is your brain constantly reminding you of all the tasks you need to do? They’re swirling around in your head, competing for your attention and you have no idea what to tackle first. You just want to scream. Ahhh!
When you feel this overwhelmed, do a brain dump. Write down EVERYTHING you need to do on a piece of paper. Getting everything out of your brain frees up some mind space, bringing your stress down a notch or two. Plus, when everything’s in black and white, it’s easier to see which tasks are really important and which one can wait another week (or month… or year….).
TAKE ACTION NOW
Grab pen and paper or your fave to-do list app (I love The Productivity Planner for this) and jot down EVERYTHING you need to get done. No matter how small or insignificant it is. Write everything down. All your work commitments. Passion projects you haven’t started yet but would love to. Meetings with clients, colleagues and friends. Doctor appointments. Household chores. Everything counts.
Step 2: Get Clear On Your Priorities
Bad news: there’s NEVER enough time to do everything on your to-do list.
Good news: There’s ALWAYS enough time to do everything that truly matters to you.
The trick is to get clear on your priorities. What dreams are you trying to achieve? What steps do you absolutely need to take this week to get closer to your dream? Schedule those in your calendar and forget the rest.
Let’s say you’re starting a coaching business and are looking for your first three clients. Starting a meetup group in your area, promoting your services with Facebook ads or asking your network for referrals are all good uses of your time. Posting on all your social media channels, writing for some obscure publication in exchange for exposure and helping a friend organize her baby shower are not.
Once you get clear on what your goals are, it’s easier to declutter your to-do list and remove all those items that take you further away from your goals.
Some items to remove are:
- Anything you don’t need to do this week: if it’s important but not urgent, schedule it a few weeks down the line.
- Anything that you can automate or delegate: do it as soon as possible!
- Anything that’s a should: don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing or tells you to do – that just brings your focus away from what’s important to YOU.
- Anything that’s been on your to-do list for months: if you really wanted to do it, you’d have done by now. Delete them for good.
- Busywork: all the stuff, like updating all your social media channels and scheduling too many meetings, that makes you feel like you’re doing something but they just make you waste time.
- Other people’s priorities: helping others is ok if you have the extra time and skills – it’s not ok when you need to sacrifice your priorities and self-care.
TAKE ACTION NOW
What are your goals for the upcoming week? Write them on a piece of paper or digital app. Then, go through the to-do list you’ve just written and ask yourself:
- Does this task bring me closer to or farther away from my goals?
- Is this something that I absolutely need to do this week or can it wait a while?
- Is this my priority or someone else’s?
Now, remove from your to-do list all those items that don’t help you reach your goals. Be ruthless. Every piece of clutter is costing you your time, energy and dreams. Don’t let anything steal them!
Step 3: Review Your Decluttered To-Do List
By this point, you should have only a handful of tasks on your decluttered to-do list. Go over it once more to make sure they all help you reach your goals. Don’t forget to schedule some time for self-care, like a manicure or a night out with your girlfriends. You can’t achieve anything if you’re burned out.
If you forgot something, add it in. Likewise, if you still have too many tasks, declutter it more. The purpose of a to-do list is NOT to help you get everything done. It’s to help you reach YOUR goals.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Review your to-do list: did you forget anything important or still have too many tasks? Tweak it accordingly. Then, transfer what’s left in your calendar. Make sure to schedule your Most Important Tasks for the time of the day when you have the most energy. And leave some much-needed time for self-care (even if it’s just 5 minutes). I’ve written a post about how I schedule my week here.
Over to you, now. What strategies do you use to declutter your to-do list? Share them in the comments below.