I love a to do list. I write them often and the majority of the time, they assist me greatly in keeping all the tasks I need to complete under control.
There are times though when even with a to do list, I miss the mark. From my observations of these instances there are a number of key reasons why this happens:
1. The to do list is too long
As noted in this excellent guest post, to clear your mind, it works brilliantly to write everything down that you need to do. This however is not your to do list. From this long list of things you need to do, you need to write an achievable list for a defined short time period. Some like to write a list for the day, others for a week. Regardless of the exact length your list needs to be limited so as it is manageable and does not to cause you to feel overwhelmed.
2. Underestimating the time it takes to complete tasks
It isn’t just the number of items on the list either that you need to look at. The time it takes to complete tasks needs to be factored in. I know from personal experience that it is very easy to underestimate how long a task takes. This can mean by the time we hit lunch time and we have achieved less than a quarter of our list, we become discouraged and ignore the list.
Making sure you are realistic about the time frame a task will take is important. I now take a conservative approach and make sure I allow plenty of time for each task, other wise I find that my to do list starts making me feel stressed as so many tasks go uncompleted.
3. The to do list is not prioritised
It is possible to have worked on your list all day, completed 95% of the tasks on it, but have failed to complete the one task that has a deadline you must meet. These then leaves you in a last minute rush to get it done.
Once you have your list of tasks to do, it is important to take the time to even simply number the tasks in priority order so you can make sure, the critical ones can be completed on time. Or it maybe that there are key tasks you need to complete that will have the biggest impact on the running of the household, so while not time dependant as such, the sooner they happen, the easier things will be for you.
I also break my tasks down into the different areas of my life – work, home, major projects and out and about. You can read more about the template I created for this and download a copy in this post – What to do when feeling overwhelmed?
4. You do not refer back to the to do list
I can become over confident in how well I know my to do list and set about doing tasks are on the list and don’t refer back to it all day. This has led to a situation where I come back at the end of the day and realise that I forgot the task I had prioritised high on my list and I end up staying up late to get it done! Referring back to the list helps keep you focused and make sure you are working on the right tasks.
5. You become obsessed with the to do list
I can become quite addicted to ticking off items from my to do list. This can cause me a few issues:
- I work too late to make sure I tick everything off in the time period I wanted to.
- I have been known to write an item on my to do list, just so I can tick it off!
- I miss other spontaneous opportunities as I am too focused on the list.
To do lists can be effective tools to help manage your work load, but they need to be well organised and flexible to be sustainable.
Have you struggled with your to do list?