Hello dear ones,
Is your to-do list dysfunctional? In my work as a life coach, I see some of the same issues over and over again. The people I work with have lots of projects going at once and nearly every one of them struggles to make progress on their to-do lists. These are hard working people, mind you. Sure, they procrastinate, but no more than the rest of us, and yet no matter how many hours they put in, the list still looms. What gives?
The most common gaffe I see people make is that they don’t differentiate between tasks and projects, so they add items to their to-do list that seemingly never get done, despite the fact that they are working hard. Let me give a definition here: A task is a discrete action, something that can be accomplished in one sitting. A project is multifaceted and by definition requires coordination of multiple parts. For example, “Write text for new About page” is a task. “Website Redesign” is a project.
Imagine this: it’s the end of your workday, and you’ve been at your desk (or your kitchen table) for hours diligently working. You only took the allotted number of Facebook breaks, and you even remembered to stretch your shoulders a couple of times. (Garudasana/Eagle arms are my favorite for releasing computer neck.) But when you look at the to-do list you started your day with, you’ve only completed a couple of things on it, even though you’ve been working for a looooooong time.
Here’s the problem: If you write a project on your to-do List, even if you complete multiple tasks related to it, you don’t get to cross it off your list until the whole project is done. And if your projects are complex or dependent on other people, you may not finish it for weeks or months. You know the feelings that follow: frustration, irritation, and that anxiety of feeling like you haven’t done enough. You might even keep working later and longer hours because you haven’t done everything you know you needed to do.
How do you shift this approach? Be very judicious when adding things to your to-do list. When you’re tempted to write “website redesign” on your list, take a minute and break it down into smaller, more doable chunks. List out all the steps it will take you to get from here to there. Put them in order and work on one at a time.
The satisfaction of crossing tasks off your list is huge! It keeps you from falling into inertia, and that momentum may even give you concrete evidence to use when the voice of your inner judge starts yapping. “You never accomplish anything,” it says. “It’s impossible for you to finish what you start. You have no follow through.” (Or at least, this is what my inner judge likes to caw about.) But when you only put tasks on the list, you have concrete factual information to clap back with. When you can honestly cross things off your list, you feel better about your work and you might end up feeling better about yourself.
Bonus: You might also glean some useful information about how long certain projects actually take. When I was working on the lead up to a big crowdfunding campaign, I was amazed at how many hours every task would take me. My expectations of what I could accomplish in a day were vastly out of touch with what was actually possible. We ended up adjusting our timeline accordingly, and everyone was much happier.
So tell me, will this be useful for you? Can you implement this shift in thinking? What else keeps you from finishing what you start? Are there other obstacles to reaching your goals? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or send me an email.