5 Ways to Effectively Manage your To-do List

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Creative success coach, Photographer, rescue dog mom, book worm, INFJ, Enneagram 3, doing my best to be mindful, kind & help people be their most authentic, purposeful selves.


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To-do or not to-to that is the question

If a constant feeling of overwhelm hangs over you like the threat of catching Covid used to, please know that you’re not alone. Procrastination and overwhelm are plagues for which there is no vaccine and both are challenges that I often support my coaching clients to overcome. 

Some people quite simply have too much on their plates at any given time. My client Phillipa for example opened a recent coaching session voicing a concern that she wasn’t retaining information in work meetings and wondered if she had a listening issue. On further examination, it turned out that she was regularly in back to back meetings, often arriving part way through the second, third and fourth meetings of the day thanks to the previous sessions overrunning. Phillipa didn’t have a listening issue, she had an out of control meetings issue. Whilst we weren’t able to do anything about the timing of the meetings she has to attend, we were able to put some fallback tools in place so she could clarify what her deliverables were from each session without missing a beat.

Time management isn’t taught at school. The only time management I remember implementing was weeks of colour coding my exam timetable when I should have been revising (follow my younger self for more procrastination tips). Sadly time overwhelm and the uncomfortable feelings it brings along for the ride are often tempered by the salve of doing sometime else like binge watching Netflix (I highly recommend Schitts Creek), doom scrolling on socials or a sudden urge to spring clean your house.

If there was a vaccine for overwhelm its active ingredients would include the following:

A Time Inventory

Keep a log over the course of a week and note what you spend your time doing and when. With the exception of the odd workaholic, most people have an adequate amount of time to get all their stuff done, it’s just not used very wisely.

Delegate tasks you can’t or won’t get to

You’ll continuously put off jobs that are too difficult or you absolutely hate, so instead of pushing them back repeatedly, ask someone else to do them. This might mean paying someone to help you; for example, if it was left to me, there would never be a newsletter sent out for either of my businesses, ever. I have no idea how to use Mailchimp, but my fabulous assistant does. If paying someone isn’t an option, you could do a skill swap instead. Amazingly some people will love the jobs you hate; find these people and recruit them to help you.

Break BIG tasks down into smaller chunks

A monster task that requires lots of decisions and planning can sound the procrastination alarm. Last week I coached a client around planning a weeklong holiday. She’d been procrastinating for months about it because she was afraid of making the wrong decision and she felt overwhelmed by all the planning the trip would entail. So we came up with three action steps to get her started: deciding on dates, putting in a leave request and researching hotels. Easy.

Plan your week ahead of time

I have two strategies for successful time management: 1) planning the week ahead on a Friday afternoon and 2) planning my day the night before. Whilst schedules can be subject to change, planning ahead gives you some structure to your time and allows you to see what you can fit in and where. Because I’m old school Gen X, I still use a paper diary which I find very helpful for managing my time and plotting my moves. Putting things down on paper is invaluable for organising your time and mind.

Don’t put too much on your to-do list

A never ending to-do list will leave you feeling defeated and useless. Keep it short, snappy and completable so you finish your day or week with a sense of accomplishment. I like to use a whiteboard for mine – check out my video over on IG for a visual on this.

These tips are just starting points to help you shift your time management skills up a gear. For more in depth tools and tips, please join me for my free Time Management Masterclass which you can find here.

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