We all need to-do lists. They help us get through the day, and they help us keep track of what we need to do. Many of us have lots and lots of lists. Grocery lists, home chores, yard work, work projects, and on and on. At times, lists can become overwhelming. There can be too many of them, or they can be so long that they are intimidating. I have worked with students in the past who take one look at their list and are paralyzed by the anxiety of how much there is to be done. So the question is, how can we simplify our lists?
Get it down to 3. Instead of looking over a long and daunting list, ask yourself, what are the three things I need to get done today? Take out a post-it and write these 3 things. This will be the sole focus of your energy. Not only will this make it easier to clear your head and get started, but it will also increase the reward at the end of the day. Instead of feeling like you’re not making a dent, you will feel like you had a productive day.
Take a big task and make it small. A lot of items that end up on to-do lists are quite large tasks. For a student, this might be a History project that needs to be completed. On a list this is 1 item, but in reality, there are a lot of steps: research, build an outline, put together a powerpoint, find images and graphics to add, practice your speech. By taking a larger project, and chopping it up into smaller, more manageable tasks, we increase our ability to get started.
Share your list with someone else. This is another great strategy to help us get started. Share your to do list with a friend. You can even ask them for their list. A lot of companies are using this strategy. They will pair up two employees and label an “accountability partner.” Communicating with another person increases our likelihood to complete tasks and makes us feel accountable to another person.
To-do lists are an essential part of life. Whether we’re talking about a college student, a lawyer, or a CEO; we all have lists. By incorporating these small strategies, we can improve our productivity and effectiveness while managing our anxiety.