To-do or NOT to-do

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Are you someone who enjoys writing lists?

We sometimes think we are super organised when we write everything down. And while that is somewhat true for brain dumping, not everything needs to stay on the list. A brain dump can simply be just that, a dump that needs flushing away, it doesn’t always end up being a job which needs to be fulfilled. Are you able to recognise when your list is getting out of hand? And if this is the case do you know how to restructure your thoughts, using categories and simplification? 

Firstly, there are so many types of lists, creative bursts of ideas which seem great at the time but when we look back realise that was just a momentary fad, or lists of commitments where we add things to ensure we remember as we risk the implications of forgetfulness. Eventually, the lists can become never-ending and this can lead to anxiety, lethargy or procrastination.

We may even find that our lives have become dictated by fulfilling our many lists, without living the things we truly want to do with our heart and soul. It’s about balance, and it can be achieved. I know this because I have been there and still find myself there from time to time. 

The power to say no

When we get to this place of anxiety or procrastination we can apply saying ‘no’ to others, but also to ourselves! (see my 5 minute taster video on my 1 hour ‘saying no’ £5 for the video – message me for details).  I discovered that it’s not my boss that makes me do things, it’s me that needs to look at my own boundaries. How do I know this? Because I work for myself and one day, I realised I had no one to blame!

So how do you know when a list is helpful and when a list is risky? It was my partner that pointed this out to me, as I was huffing and sighing looking at the many lists on my phone. A solution to this was to make just one place where I stored my ‘to-do’ instead of a million note books, post-its, laptop notes and wall calendars!  And eventually, the way my lists were done, evolved. What seems key to this process is simplification.

Keep it simple

Sometimes we just need to simplify our lives. With so much stimulation and endless choices going on around us and can feel overwhelming, overstimulation.

It can be so good to cut back on the things which are really not important and may have to ask yourself some difficult questions to decide what these are. For example, if I need to buy a new pair of trainers, I’m not going to put it on my list anymore, if I walk past a shop that sells them it’ll trigger my memory and I’ll go in and buy it. If it’s not desperately important then you have to learn to not put everything on your list.

So how do we get the balance between remembering the important things but without making obsessive lists?

and how do we make use of the tools available without overdoing it excessively? 

What I’ve found that works for me

There are some different techniques and styles I’d like to share with you that I’ve found to be the least anxiety-inducing for me. I get a piece of paper and divide it by 4 (which can be done online).  People similar to me would be tempted to add even more categories but try to keep this as simple as possible. 

My work one is:

  • Quick replies
  • Quick jobs
  • Longer jobs
  • Business strategy

I keep my personal list on my phone and I can just tap into it easily as well as add any quick thoughts or ideas but I don’t leave these on my phone. I will later add them into my list with 4 quadrants and delete stuff that is not important.

Other ways to divide them are in 3’s:

  • Now, later, wish list
  • Today, this week, this month
  • Urgent, personal, work

Something I have found myself is I get really excited about new projects and new ideas but this is where a separate book for wishes and crazy ideas can be helpful just to get these out of your head. Chances are you may look back and realise those ideas do not suit you anymore and you can just cross these off rather than being hard on yourself that you’ve not completed them. 

Each day I take out of that list and decide to get the big jobs out of the way, then when I’m feeling fatigued, I go and do a lot of quick jobs, which helps me feel productive and gets them off the list. 

In summary 

It’s all about what works best for you so test them out and see what makes you feel the calmest, go with your gut.  Whenever you feel those anxiety symptoms coming up in your body:

  1. Step back – observe yourself
  2. Strip back – what can be deleted or moved somewhere, even delegated?
  3. Refocus – what is important NOW?

We are just one person, with 24 hours, 7 days a week.  We cannot do everything. Be strategic and choose. You can read more about when life gets overwhelming on my blog ‘NLP Life-Wheel’ with a great tool on there to manage it.

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