Follow this process to complete your entire to-do list in record time. You won’t be able to live without this method once you’ve used it.
We all experience times when the number of things we feel we have to do seems impossible, and this feeling increases stress, decreases productivity, and generally makes us unhappy, which has a knock-on effect to those around us both at work and at home.
While it seems counterintuitive to take time out of such a busy day to plan and strategise, this is what we MUST do, otherwise this overwhelming feeling, or the pattern of returning to this feeling, will not stop.
To ensure you remove this semi-regular (or for some, consistent) sense of intense stress, I’ve provided you with a simple process which you can refer to any time you recognise feeling overwhelmed with things to do. This method has worked for me and those I have coached for years, and praise for the method is always sky high.
While this may seem common sense, I wonder how commonly you are implementing it? Try it today and watch the impact on your stress levels, productivity and happiness.
I have created a Prioritisation Template for you to use with this method which saves you drawing out your own. If you’d like a copy, send me a quick email here with the subject Prioritisation Template (no need to write more) and I will send the template back over quickly so that you can get going.
Step 1: The List
The first step is to write down your to-do list. It is totally up to you whether you throw everything in together or whether you separate it by projects, work and home, etc. Use the following process to ensure the list is truly complete:
Write down everything you have to do by working through:
Everything on your mind
The piles of paper or post-its on your desk which represent to-do’s
Your email inbox for any flagged/unread/read and forgotten to-do’s
Your ‘sent’ emails for any to-do’s you’ve promised others
Any meeting to-do’s you’ve taken accountability for
2. Go for a walk! When you think you’ve got everything down, take 10 minutes to walk around the block or grab a coffee; clear your mind to allow those last few to-do’s to surface, and add these to the list
At the end of this step you should have a very clear desk, and mind!
Step 2: The Cull
Now the fun part, we want to get rid of some of these actions, they simply don’t need to get done. So do this by asking yourself the following 2 questions for each ‘to-do’:
What would happen if it didn’t get done?
If it doesn’t get done, will it matter 6 months from now?
If the answer to these questions is 1) Not much, and 2) No; put a line straight through it and don’t think of it again.
Step 3: The Priority
Next to your list add 4 columns and in the first 3 write the titles: Urgent, Important, Value and evaluate each item using the following rules:
Urgent - ***, **, * - in order of most to least urgent
Important - 1, 2, 3 - in order of most to least important
Value - £££, ££, £ - in order of most to least valuable to you or your business
In the 4th column add the title Priority and use A-C in order of highest to lowest priority.
Prioritise the most important and high value to-do’s first, over the urgent. I think you’ll be surprised by the top priorities!
Step 4: The Start
Next we need to get these to-do’s done! We can only do that one step at a time, and so we need to identify what the next step is. If your to-do list is made up of projects, you are likely avoiding them as they look so big and intimidating, so let’s put a stop to that now.
Add a column next to your priority with the title Next Action and identify the very next action required to make progress on the to-do item. Do not think about the second action until you have completed the first, thus decluttering your mind from things outside of your circle of control.
For example, if my to-do was to find a new concept for an event in the financial services space, my next action may be to review some market reports on the top industry trends and make a list of which trends could translate to a viable event concept.
Add another column next to your next action and title it Time; write down the time required to complete that next action.
Step 5: The Plan
Once you’ve collected and verified all important to-do’s, prioritised them and identified the very next action towards completing them, it’s time to plan for completion of everything on that list.
So, if you have a diary grab it now and if you don’t, download a weekly planner template (free on many websites) and start inputting your to-do’s using the following process:
Add in all scheduled and weekly meetings/appointments
Add in all hard deadlines
Add ‘White Time’ - consider how often unexpected to-do’s are added to your workload and allocate time for these. For example, if something unexpected occurs daily, add 30mins of White Time into each day to expect the unexpected
Input all of your next actions from your list:
Diarise tasks in pencil so that you can easily amend for unexpected events
Always increase the time you’ve allocated in your list when diarising to ensure there is ample time for the to-do to get done (i.e. if you believe the task will take 30mins, allocate 45mins)
Add in time between to-do’s for coffee breaks, lunch, emails to ensure your daily plan is realistic
Step 6: The Finish Line
There is only one thing left to do; follow-through. If you have completed the steps correctly, you cannot fail in completing your to-do list. Additionally you should now be able to see clearly exactly when you will complete every item on the list, and the likelihood is that it’s a much shorter timeframe than you first imagined.
Add one more column to your list and use the title Complete and make sure you celebrate every moment you can throw a tick in that column.
If you find this article useful, please help others relieve such a common cause of stress by sharing it with your network.
Remember, if you’d like a ready-made template with all the above columns mapped out, email me here with the subject line Priority Template and I’ll send one straight back.
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