Thursday, April 12, 2012

7 Tips To Help You Conquer Your TO-DO List

The almighty TO-DO List.

We all have them, right? If we don't actually scribble out our tasks on paper, we certainly keep a tally of things that need to get done in our heads.

I used to rage against my to-do lists. Mainly because they were so my home, there's always at least 10 things that need to get done right now! I'm guessing your home is no different.

But the other day I had a huge break through when it came to my chore list. I actually got everything done! And not because this particular list was any shorter or easier than past lists. So I sat down to analyze why this busy day was more productive than most. Here are the seven tips I used to blow through my to-do list.

1. Complete the easiest or fastest job first

Experts say when a person is paying down their credit card debt to start with the smallest balance first to "trick" yourself into seeing the quickest results, to build momentum and to set yourself up for success. I'm convinced that any sort of task, like cleaning or chores in general, requires that same kind of psychological boost. The more items I see being crossed off quickly, the more fired up I get to cross off another item.

2. Don't get distracted by side jobs that aren't on the list

This is so easy for me to do. As I'm putting one item away, I'll pass something that needs to get taken care of and feel the need to fix it immediately. Ultimately, I end up sidetracked and take much longer to finish a single task. The other day, my task was folding laundry (and actually getting it put away!) but as I walked past my pantry door to take the clothes upstairs, I saw numerous, grubby little fingerprints all over the white door. So I set down the pile of clothes, found one of those Magic Erasers and scrubbed away. The results were so fun, I ended up scrubbing all my downstairs doors, and some baseboards. Two hours and 10 wrinkly fingers later, my doors looked great but my laundry wasn't done. I had wasted my time on a task that didn't NEED to get done right then. Even though it WAS fun! (The results, not the work.) :)

3. Get the kiddies involved (if you have them)

I tried this the other day and it was a big hit. I'm one of those moms that gives her kids chores anyways, but on this particular day I was trying to make cleaning fun for them. So I made each of my three kids a to-do list with three jobs on each. Little things like "pick up toys", "take towels downstairs", "make your bed". Of course, my two year-old's list was a poorly drawn hieroglyphic but she got the point...and more importantly they rushed through their little lists because it was fun for them to cross off each one with their big crayons. And those were all jobs that I didn't have to do, so it left me with time to do other things. Now, they ask every time we clean if I will make them each a list. Score!

4. Organize paper prep/supplies before you begin

It never fails. Right as I'm walking out the door to run my list of errands, I realize I haven't printed a certain recipe, or clipped a particular coupon, or checked my son's shoe size (because they change so darn fast, I can't always remember) so I know for sure what size baseball socks to buy. Or if I'm all geared up to work on a homework project with my son or any number of other things...I stop short, realizing I don't have the index cards I need or the correct color of glitter or I ran out of staples...whatever it is, it slows me down. Plan ahead.

5. Find small time blocks to do small tasks on the go

In order to keep the momentum going, even when you have to run out of the house...say for school pick up, a sports practice or the like...bring something to do while you wait. Most people have smart phones now and can check email, blogs, etc. but what else can you do in your car? I'm a bit OCD about the piles of magazines/catalogs I receive in the mail. Even if I know I won't be purchasing something from Pottery Barn Kids, Victoria's Secret, J. Crew, and the slew of other subscriptions I have, I still feel the need to flip through each one before I am free to toss it in the recycle bin. (Not sure why I have this compulsion.) So I have been known to take my mail with me to read in my car while I wait to pick up my kids from school.  That might be a me-specific example. But there are countless other ways to accomplish something while list composing maybe?

6. Don't take a break

This one seems counter intuitive but I promise you, the second you sit down to take a short break, to check email, to read one chapter, etc., your adrenaline/mood will settle and slow until you can't be pried off the couch if the curtains were to catch on fire.

7. Channel Scarlett O'Hara

My favorite heroine (or villain, depending on your perspective), Scarlett O'Hara used to say "I can't think about that now. I'll think about it tomorrow" when she was feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. That phrase gave her permission to regroup and focus on what needed to be done immediately. The other stuff could wait until tomorrow. Life has a tendency to rush in and feel like everything's happening all at once. When the list is demanding to get finished today, break it down. What can be pushed back until tomorrow?

Share with me: What do you think of these tips? Any that you already utilize? Any good ones I forgot to include? Are you a list maker?


  1. LOVE this list, L! Channeling your inner Scarlett-- how southern belle of you! :) I have trouble with #2 on this list. I'll keep these tips in mind! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lists are so important for me if I'm going to get things done because I'm so easily distracted and ADD-ish. That and I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing things off. :)

  3. Great post, Lacie. I'm a list maker, but lately I've been distracted. I need to put some of your tips to work.

  4. #4 happens to me all the time!

    I have a few things I do that would fit into #5 - like I always unload my dishwasher while my on cup coffeemaker is brewing. Otherwise, I'd just stand there in an un caffeinated stupor. :p

  5. You forgot #5 - lose the TO DO list and then it doesn't exist any more ;)

  6. ummm ... I can't count. I mean you forgot #8. Sheesh. *hand slap forehead* I'm 8 1/2 months pregnant. What do you expect?


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