Do you find it hard to tick off everything on your to do list?
You are not alone. Most of us start each day with grand intentions - scribbling down a long list of seemingly important tasks, only to get pulled in twenty different directions once the phone starts ringing and the emails start pouring in.
If this sounds familiar, keep reading. I'll introduce you to a simple tool that will help you take control of your task list and find satisfaction in a day's work, even when you don't get everything done.
Yes, you read that right. You don't need to get everything on your list done for your day to be effective. You just need to make progress on the most important tasks.
That's why it's critical that you employ a tool that helps you categorise your tasks.
Enter the 1-3-5 rule.
It works like this...
Assume that on any one day, you can accomplish one big important mission, 3 important tasks and five small things.
Here is an example list:
Number 1 task (super important)
- Call vendor of Smith Street to discuss price reduction
Next 3 tasks (pretty important)
- Book car signwriting
- Email database
- Follow up appraisal from last Friday
5 small things (bonus points if you get these done)
- Order more business cards
- Finish open home calls
- Go for a walk with your spouse / partner / friend
- Come up with settlement gift idea for Jones family
- Call a family member just to say hello
Many of us categorise our to-do-list subconsciously already, knowing we should tackle our most important tasks first. But then we berate ourselves at the end of the day when there are inevitably tasks left over on our list.
By using the 1-3-5 rule, you can absolve yourself of that guilt. Give yourself permission to leave things on your list if the day gets busy.
Just make sure you tackle your most important tasks first. And if, by the end of the day, all you have achieved is ticking off your number 1 task, then that should be considered a good day.
Like this idea?
Visit this link to download a 1-3-5 task list template:
A few more to-do-list tips...
If you feel weighed down by your task list each day, try these subtle changes:
- Call it an 'achievement list' rather than a to-do-list. This sounds far more positive and the intention is to provide you with a sense of achievement as you tick tasks off.
- Use a highlighter to mark off each task as you complete it, rather than crossing it out with pen. This helps you focus on what you have completed, rather than what you haven't yet done.
- Break big jobs into smaller tasks. Don't add 'build a website' to your list. Turn it into a mini, achievable goal. For instance, today's task might be: 'research Squarespace vs Wix'. Then once that goal is complete, add a follow up task to tomorrow's list. Eg. Create 'Squarespace account and choose template'. It might take 10 steps before you have a functioning website, but you will be making progress each day.
- Only keep one list. Multiple to-do-lists create anxiety.
- If a task has been on your to-do-list for more than 2 weeks, either make it a priority or cross it out and move on. It's taking up valuable mental space.
- Delegate! Look at your task list and ask 'who could I ask to help me with this?'. Is your PA / manager / office admin person able to take something off your plate? It never hurts to ask the question.
If you still feel overwhelmed with jobs...
Check out our guide on hiring an assistant: