Take Control of your To Do List in 3 Simple Steps

Feeling scattered? Overwhelmed by too many things “to do”? Don’t know where to start? You’re definitely NOT alone!!
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I’ve been there many MANY times. Through the years, I’ve struggled with the habit of over-booking my schedule, over-promising and over-WHELMING myself!
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I would feel like I had so many things to do, yet I didn’t even know where to start or how to organize my thoughts. I felt like I was drowning!
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Learning how to go from utter chaos to organization has made me so passionate about the power of creating a really solid “To Do” list system. By implementing a few key habits in my life, I’ve completely eliminated the feeling of overwhelm and the chances of forgetting important “to dos.”
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And that, my friend, is life changing! Today, I feel a sense of clarity and control in my life. I’m more productive when I need to be, and relaxed when I want to be.
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There are many many strategies to creating a bullet-proof system (more on that later), but today we’re starting simple. Here are 3 basic steps to quickly take control of your “To Dos” when you feel like your head might explode!
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Step 1. Consolidate all your lists into ONE Master To Do list:

Having multiple “to do” lists is the #1 mistake most people make. It’s tempting to write lists on different notebooks, devices or digital files to compartmentalize our projects, but this is a recipe for disaster!
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By writing a fresh list every day or scattering lists throughout your home or devices, you’re setting yourself up for mental fatigue, confusion and chaos. Having ONE master to do list is effective because you are creating a reliable location where every task or “incomplete item” lives. This eliminates the chances of a task being forgotten, it saves time in re-writing your list, and it creates a sense of control and clarity on what needs to get done.
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With modern technology, having 1 master list that is with you at all times has never been easier! I personally use and love ToDoIst, but any list making website or app will do.
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Step 2. Write EVERY “incomplete to do” on your list:

 

And I mean everything! (i.e. learn to scooba dive one day, finish that work project, pay the electric bill, call Mom back, fix the screen door)
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I stole this tip from super popular productivity book, Getting Things Done by David Allen, and it has mind clearing super-powers! Allen suggests writing down every single task that we can’t accomplish within 2 minutes that has popped into our head. This exercise can take an hour or two when done correctly.
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Why is this so important? Neuroscientists have determined that our brains are designed for creating ideas, but not storing them. If we don’t externalize a to-do, task or idea, our brains will re-remind us of the task until it’s complete. This mental loop wastes valuable cognitive energy that could be used actually getting things done.
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Also, seeing all our projects, tasks, and to dos down on paper (or digital “paper”) gives us the opportunity to tackle our to dos in a methodical and organized manner. When half our tasks are missing from our list, it’s nearly impossible to prioritize and create an effective plan of attack.
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So find a cozy spot, get a cup o’ joe, and write everything down that’s dancing around your head!
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Step 3. Break up Projects & Tasks into small “actionable” chunks:

 

Writing big, ambiguous project descriptions on your list is a killer of productivity, and a fueler for procrastination!
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Identify the small actionable steps it takes to accomplish a project to help create a clear road map. This exercise reduces confusion, procrastination and wasted time because moving from step to step is easily followed and executed. For example:
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Plan my best friend’s birthday 
-ask her which restaurant she wants to celebrate at
-invite the “crew”
-book the reservation
-buy her gift
-wrap her gift
-confirm the date & time with everyone 2 days prior
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Need more strategies for your to do list? We’re here to help! Tell us what you struggle with most below, and we’ll create a post just for you.
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Photo source: Domino
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