Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the amount of stuff you have to get done? Perhaps you occasionally find yourself uncertain of where to even begin, or what to do next. If you are anything like me, you’ve wrestled with both of these scenarios. Many of us use to-do lists, written out on scraps of paper or in a planner, or managed with an app. Well, here’s a handful of tips to help you get the most benefit out of your lists!
1. Write out your daily list the night before
This allows your resting brain to chew on the upcoming tasks, and leaves you more prepared to breeze on into them when you get started the next day. You are also less likely to dwell on these tasks if they are written down, because you don’t have to waste energy trying to remember them.
2. Reward yourself for every task you complete
Small rewards help you feel good about doing work that is difficult or unpleasant. The reward can be as simple as giving yourself an invigorating scalp rub, or taking a cup of coffee outside and spending a few minutes mindlessly appreciating the view. For the toughest tasks, or for completing major projects, perhaps the reward is something bigger- lunch at your favorite restaurant, or booking a massage. Giving your brain something to look forward to is a wonderful way to make your work feel less taxing.
3. Eat a frog first thing in the morning
Ummm… what? This odd bit of advice is only suggesting that you try to knock one of your less pleasant tasks off of your list first. The rest of your day will probably feel much easier if you begin it with a sense of relief and accomplishment.
4. Consider how you most enjoy marking your completed tasks
Do you cross tasks out or use a big check mark? What if you gave yourself hearts, or stars, or wrote yourself little encouraging notes as you wrap up your tasks? This way, at the end of the workday, you can easily see all your accomplishments in a satisfying list.
5. Use colored pens or pencils
If you are artistically minded like me, incorporating colors into your checklist makes it feel more appealing. It can also serve as a small reward for yourself, a personal act of beauty to enhance your workday.
6. Include your quitting time
Give your brain a rest from work, and set aside time to spend with yourself or your family. End your day by writing out the list for the next day, and step away from the workday.
7. Include a task which will get your body moving
You don’t have to suit up and go jogging unless you’re into that sort of thing. Even taking 5 minutes to do run in place or do some jumping jacks will give you a surprising burst of mental and physical energy. Maybe you make the task one which benefits your living space- weed your vegetable patch, or grab the stepladder and organize the upper shelf in your closet. Little daily chores may be unpleasant, but they can really add up quickly and support your sense of well being.
8. Don’t stress out if you don’t get everything done!
Nobody is perfect. I usually have one or two things which don’t get done by my set quitting time- Ijust add them to the list for the next day. My personal rule is, if I neglect a task for two days, on the third day the task becomes my frog and I eat it first thing in the morning.
9. Base daily tasks on the process, not the product
Lots of projects are way too big to complete in one day. If you want to read an 800 page novel or textbook, include a task on your to-do list which reads, “Read for 20 minutes” or “Read 10 pages” Tasks will seem just a little easier, a little less intimidating. Even huge tasks can be completed if you attend to them a little each day. The trick is to treat yourself gently, and find lots of little ways to incorporate fun and beauty into your workday.
Much of this is stuff I learned by taking the online course Learning How To Learn. Once I took the course, I noticed a cascading effect in my own life. Understanding the physiology of learning and specific strategies for ease and effectiveness has been an incredible first step in making positive life changes. The course is free, and takes between 3 and 9 hours, depending on how much work you want to put into it.
And if you happen to have “Book a massage” written on your list, you can get an appointment on-line by clicking here or calling (541) 583-0835.