First there were miniature memo pads and pencils, now we have note-taking apps that go with us everywhere on our smartphones. Making lists of what needs to get done around the house and at work can help us remember all the to-dos, but it can also keep us from focusing on the things that really matter most.
The problem with lists is they often give everything equal importance. They also provide a false sense of productivity, because we think that the more we get checked off the more we’re getting done. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true. To have a happier household we’ve got to learn how to ditch the master lists and give the most important things more of our attention.
Understanding Not Everything Has to Get Done Right Now
When you take the approach that everything needs to get checked off the to-do list ASAP, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Inevitably, as soon as one thing gets checked off, another will take its place. The result is a feeling that your wheels are always turning, but you’re not getting anywhere.
That’s because oftentimes there’s little discretion for what gets put on the list. Once an item is there, we feel obligated to get it done, even if it’s not a necessity. Going at it in this fashion, our list prioritizes things for us instead of the other way around. Everything becomes just as important as every other item on the list, and it doesn’t matter which one gets taken care of first.
The most productive people realize that focusing on the essentials is what’s really important. Everything else can wait.
Prioritizing Tasks for a More Productive To-Do List
In The ONE Thing, Gary Keller points out that, “Left in its raw state, as a simple inventory, a to-do list can easily lead you astray.” Taking the time to decide what is most important can instantly transform that time-sucking inventory into a blueprint for making each day more productive.
Once you accept that not everything needs to get done on the to-do list and that not all items are equal, you can begin to prioritize what needs to get done and take back a bit of your sanity. When you’re more focused, happier and productive your home will inherently run smoother as a result. At the end of the day a content family is the true measure of success, not checked off to-dos.
Family matters should always be a top priority. Family-related to-dos are the easy ones to identify as a priority and that should be reflected on your essentials list.
Tasks That Save Time
Items that will make other tasks easier or eliminate them altogether should take priority. Often these items are the more difficult ones that we put off, but in the end they are the to-dos that are really worth doing. An easy way to identify these priority to-dos is to ask yourself the Focusing Question.
Likewise, instead of handling repetitive problems take the time to find a solution. In a recent post about mompreneurs, we highlight a handful of moms that created products (and ultimately, businesses) that solved a problem they would have otherwise had to deal with again and again.
Also, focus on the items that provide the most return. As Pareto’s 80/20 Principle shows, most of the time a small percentage of tasks produce the majority of the results. It’s a model that proves not all tasks are equal.
Get Rid of the Non-Essentials
Get ready to remove a number of things from your list all at once. Ask yourself, “Is this something I should do or that I could do?” Now, set all the “could dos” aside. Anytime you consider adding something to your list, ask yourself the question again. And don’t be afraid to tell people no if what they need isn’t a priority or if you don’t have space on your list for a non-essential.
When you apply the techniques above your to-do list will become a success list that is focused on getting the most done – not getting more things done. At the end of the day all it takes is putting your energy behind ONE Thing to set off a domino effect where one accomplishment leads to the next.