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Is Your To-Do List Reasonable or Unrealistic?

I love my daily to-do list! I have to confess that without my written list of things I want to accomplish before the end of my day, I’d be totally disorganized. I learned early on that to be truly effective, my to-do list needed to be reasonable and realistic.

Today is the day

Here are five lessons I’ve learned about writing to-do lists:

1. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day. Trying to cram 36 hours worth of work and “to-do’s” into 24 hours is not only impossible, it is frustrating and stressful. Over estimating what you can actually do within a typical workday is setting yourself up for frustration and self-sabotage.

Activity: At the beginning of each month create a “must-finish” calendar. On your calendar write which activities “must” be completed by which dates. Decide what you are willing to do each day or each week to complete the “must-finish” activities on time. Breaking all the “must-finish” activities into bite-sized pieces will help prioritize and manage your time more effectively.

2. Plan ahead. The beauty of your to-do list is that it becomes a written blueprint of what you want to achieve day-to-day. Your to-do list and your goals go hand-in-hand. A to-do list is your daily vehicle for achieving short term and long term goals. Have you written your goals?

Activity: Do you have monthly, quarterly and yearly goals? If not, now is the time to write your goals. A to-do list is only effective if you know what you’re working toward. Look at your goals and break them down into bite-sized pieces. Plan to place one or more of those pieces on your to-do list each day. Before you know it, you’ve achieved your goals.

3. Leave time for the unexpected “stuff” that seems to happen. A to-do list becomes unrealistic when it is so crammed with activities that even Wonder Woman wouldn’t be able to complete them within 24 hours. We all know that “stuff” happens during the day – unexpected phone calls, last minute errands, unplanned meetings, etc. An effective to-do list leaves some wiggle room for the real world stuff that happens day-to-day.

Activity: Write out your to-do list and honestly evaluate how long it will take to complete each item. Add up the hours and ask yourself if you’ve left time to deal with the unexpected things that may, and usually do, crop up during the workday. Anticipating the unexpected will help to eliminate the unnecessary stress of trying to work under the self-imposed pressure of feeling you are falling behind.

4. If you can, use technology to help write your to-do lists. I’m still a person who needs to physically write out my daily to-do list with pen and paper. Many busy women in business write their lists and download them to their smart phones, notebooks and other mobile devices. The key is having your to-do list handy so they can glance at it throughout the day.

Activity: Check out some of the latest “to-do” list technology. The one I personally like is called Remember The Milk at http://www.rememberthemilk.com/ . They offer a free account and it is easy to install on your phone or you can use it with Gmail, Google Calendar and Twitter. At the end of the year, it actually tells you how many tasks you’ve completed.

5. Write your to-do list when you can think clearly. Some people want to write their list the night before so they can sleep on the “to-do’s” all night and some, write their list as soon as they sit down to begin the day. I say, whichever method works best for you, that is the one to use.

Activity: Honestly, I prefer writing out my to-do list first thing in the morning when I am refreshed and thinking clearly. I look at my calendar and I know what I want to accomplish before the end of the workday. Decide if evening or morning is the right time to create your to-do list. Whether you write your list in the morning or evening, commit to writing your to-do list at the same time each day.

With the right mindset and a commitment to using them regularly, to-do lists can prove to be effective organizational and time management tools for helping us achieve our goals.

Please, share your thoughts and comments with us. We’d love to hear from you.

Sharon Michaels
Author – Blogger – Coach to Women Entrepreneurs
Owner of WomenWhoWantToSuccessfullyWorkForThemselves.com
P. S. If you’d like to coach one-on-one, join a MasterMind group or become a guest blogger on this blog, please email me at – coaching@sharonmichaels.com or use the Contact Sharon form on this site.
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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Deborah Munoz-Chacon July 10, 2017, 7:42 am

    I think it’s so important to use #3 and leave time for unexpected things. It seems like something always comes up. So, don’t overfill your do do list. I like to use Google Calendars for my to do list. Putting the items on my calendars forces me to see them and I’m more likely to accomplish them.

    • sharonmichaels July 10, 2017, 8:23 am

      I still use a paper calendar and keep it in front of me. I agree Deborah, keeping a calendar is important.


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