3 Questions to Slash Your To-do List
So, you’ve got one (or more) to do lists. But every evening, when you go to bed, there’s still undone tasks. Maybe by the end of the week you have more to-dos than you started the week with! I’ve certainly been there!
What’s a super woman to do? How can we continue to accomplish our goals, care for our loved ones, and keep our own sanity while making sure laundry and dirty dishes don’t flood our homes?
We’ve got to do less and accomplish more.
It is one of life’s paradoxes that by slashing our to-do list, we can actually get more done. And I’m not talking about a cheat, where we multi-task, or “work smarter not harder.” We need to reduce the number of items we are doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Part of this is simple math. If I stop cleaning my house, choosing instead to hire someone else to clean, I have more time available. In addition, I have more mental space. A shorter to-do list means better focus on each task.
To summarize: when we reduce our to-do list, we’ll have more time to devote to each task and the peace of mind we need to perform with excellence. Use these questions to slash your task lists.
Does it have to be done?
This may seem like a stupid question, but you might be surprised how many items don’t actually have to be done. For example, I am meticulous in how I fold and put away laundry. I alternate the stacking of my husband’s undershirts so that the stack is not higher on one side. Then I put the fresh shirts in the bottom of the drawer, under the remaining clean shirts, so that the shirts are in constant rotation. This is not something that HAS to be done. In fact, if I am pressed for time, I may very well just hand a stack of clean undershirts to my husband and let him put them away however he pleases.
Point to ponder: Consider whether the task in question is based on an assumption v. a request. My husband has never requested that I organize his undershirts, so it’s optional. On the other hand, he has explicitly requested that I button the top buttons of his polo shirts when I hang them up (I’m in charge of all laundry at my house). So that’s a task that does need to be done, leading nicely into my next question.
If so, do YOU have to do it?
Many things in life are non-negotiable. Houses must be kept clean. Cars need maintenance. My husband’s polo shirts need to be buttoned while on the hanger. But that doesn’t mean YOU have to do them. As a recovering control freak, I know it can be difficult to outsource or delegate a task. But we all need to remember that every no is a yes, and every yes is a no. If you say yes to a task you don’t have to do, you are saying no to something else, possibly something that you really want to do.
By agreeing to hang my husband’s shirts a certain way, I’m saying no to other options. And if I need or want to do something else rather than hang his shirts, I will ask him to do it himself. (In fairness to my sweet husband, he wouldn’t bat an eye at a request, nor does he hesitate to do laundry whenever needed).
Point to ponder: What tasks are you comfortable outsourcing? Delegation will be easiest if you start with tasks that you dislike or are not good at.
If so, how can you make it fun?
You may have noticed that the items that consistently get left undone are the ones you dislike and can’t outsource. It’s January, and most of us have resolved to improve our health. But when you face a time crunch, it’s the gym or the pre-packed lunches that go away first. The answer to this issue is to link up these unpleasant tasks with pleasant ones. Another way to frame this is to link the undesirable tasks to our ideals and goals. I need to lose a bit of weight currently. I hate to work out and I love to eat sweets. So in order to make sure that health-related tasks are done, I link them to what I love. I enjoy spending time with friends, so I choose a friend as my workout partner. We get our exercise and share quality time together. I love chocolate, and I’m also passionate about supporting local businesses. So instead of buying a mass produced product like Oreos or candy bars, I buy very expensive (and small) bars of locally made chocolate. Then I eat just 1 square at a time, being as mindful as I can be. I get my chocolate fix AND support local businesses. In addition, due to the higher price, I eat less chocolate, which helps with my weight goal.
Point to ponder: Make a list of your favorite things and your least favorite things (Sound of Music song optional). Have some fun thinking of creative ways to match up the two lists.