When I say “to-do list”, what do you think?
I used to feel dread just thinking about the miles long, never-ending, ever-growing list of stuff.
Now, I throw away my to-do list on Monday mornings AND get more things done than EVER before.
The time management method I’ll share with you today changed my work life.
I’m not kidding.
But first, all credit to Brooke Castillo with the The Life Coach School Podcast. It’s thanks to her I tried this technique (and slightly modified it to fit me even better).
Here’s the idea and how I personally go about it. Let’s break it into 3 steps.
Write it All Down
On Monday morning, sit down with a pen and paper and write down everything that needs to get done in your life right now. EVERYTHING.
Phew! It’s a lot, right.
Dump all of it out on the paper and don’t stop until your brain is completely empty.
Yup, it might take a while and you might think “this is too much”.
Do it anyway. Give it a try.
Put down the pen. Look at the monster list and take a sip of your morning tea.
Assign Each Task a Time Slot
Ask yourself what tasks you want to take care of THIS week.
Assign each task a time slot on your calendar.
Estimate how long each task will take and take into account things like the time it will take to get to a certain place.
Do this for every single task you want to accomplish for the week.
If you have a big project, break it down into smaller pieces and assign time slots.
Once again, this might take a while. Allow yourself to the feeling of doubt that this is worth your time and then continue to do it anyway.
What if you don’t know how long a certain task will take?
Well, for most things you can decide how long time you will ALLOW it to take. Make an estimation, then make a decision and STICK with it.
If others are involved, not only add in a cushion of time but also be very clear with the persons involved that this is the amount of time you have.
What if you have an emergency?
Emergencies are emergencies. It’s part of life. However, in reality, there should be very few.
Instead, let’s talk about those little “fires” that feels like emergencies.
What if I need to put out fires?
Oftentimes things come up and frenetically poke at us throughout the day. Things that want our immediate attention. Think phone calls, inquiries, text messages, something you forgot last week…
If you are like me, you think: “Let me just take care of this first and then I can focus,” or “I really have to take care of this now because __________________ (fill in what you might THINK is a reasonable explanation)”.
Is it true?
Do you absolutely HAVE to take care of it right now?
Is it possible you can put that little fire in the open time slot at 4pm that you created for unexpected tasks?
My guess it you probably can.
Make sure you always have a time slot each day for poking things ike that. That way you can go about it INTENTIONALLY and not REACTIVELY.
I also recommend to have a what I call “left over time slot” for tasks that you slightly miscalculated and need to finish up before the end of the day.
Hint! It’s helpful if you set your phone to silent (as often as you possibly can) and stay off social media too. Remember – go about your day intentionally. Just saying.
The Fun Part – Throw Away the List
When all the tasks you want to accomplish for the week have their assigned time slot, you throw away the list.
Yes, even if there are things still on there.
If they are important enough you A: Would already have assigned them a slot or B: You WILL remember them during next week’s Monday to-do download.
Important – Beware
Your whole week is scheduled out (high five) and it’s time to start digging in…
Two things are likely to happen:
- You will feel resistance
- You will want to start to bargaining
This might happen right away or when there’s a task on Wednesday morning you don’t really feel like doing.
It’s ok. Feel the resistance. Acknowledge it.
You might even tell yourself: “This is resistance and that’s ok.”
Then, do it anyway. Do NOT bargain. STICK to the plan.
This is key.
By sticking to the plan and not give in to the resistance you’ll build not only the habit of follow through but also you’ll start to trust yourself more. I’m talking from personal experience.
Why Try It?
Organizing all my tasks this way has brought both peace and clarity to my everyday life.
I don’t have to run all those tasks over and over in my head, thinking “Oh, I have to remember to finish that blog post before Thursday”, or “when will I have time to prepare for that interview?”
Instead, I can FOCUS because I know all of it is on the schedule and I’ll be following the plan, so therefore it WILL be taken care of.
I feel in control.
I’ve also found that when all tasks have a slot on my schedule and I have a detailed overview of the whole week, rather than a long overwhelming to-do list, it becomes very clear that there is only so much time for each task. With that in mind (and seeing that detailed schedule in front of me) I’m less likely to drag tasks out. Instead…
I finish tasks. I get it done.
Yes, if you are an entrepreneur who loves the freedom and feeling of having a flexible schedule, this might feel very rigid at first. But think of it for a second. By being this productive, now you can open up time slots in your schedule for “free time” and other fun things AND be able to truly enjoy it because you know all the to-dos are taken care of.
That’s what I’ve come call true freedom.
At the end of the day I feel proud of myself for not only having been productive but taking active steps towards creating the results I want.
The Super Short Summary Version
- Write it all down.
- Assign each task a time slot.
- Throw away your to-do list, STICK with the plan, feel the resistance and do it anyway.
It’s worth a try, don’t you think?