To-do lists. Just the name of them sounds exhausting. They have become the thorn in many of my client's side. Whether they are written in long form on paper, or maintained electronically on a computer or handheld device, they cause much stress.
And here's one reason why. Most people unknowingly combine their master to-do list and daily to-do list together. This one act causes the list to become lengthy and overwhelming, which in turn almost guarantees failure. The person with this massive all-in-one to-do list will either abort the list altogether, or try desperately to get tasks done, all the while feeling inadequate and like a failure due to his or her inability to accomplish the items on the list.
What to do (yes, pun intended!)? Keep 'em separated!
Create a master to-do list and a separate daily to-do list. The master list includes tasks you plan to and want to get to, but cannot accomplish in one day, similar to a project list. Your daily list is only made up of the tasks you intend to, and can realistically accomplish, in one day, which is usually only about 3-5 items. The daily list puts your master list into action on a daily basis. That way, you get the satisfaction of actually crossing off your daily to-do's, but have a more comprehensive list so you don't forget tasks you need to tend to at some point later on.
Here's an example. You need to do a home renovation project like paint your basement. Your master to-do list reads: paint basement. But the daily to-do list will break down that master item into several separate entries over a longer period of time.
Get the picture? The master to-do list names the project and the daily to-do list breaks out the action steps in a manageable, reasonable and realistic manner in order to accomplish that project. That way, the items actually get done. And isn't that what a to-do list is supposed to be for anyway?
Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro, "The Solutions Expert," is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly "DECIDE to be Organized" e-zine for the general public, and "Next Level Business Success" e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at http://www.lmorganizingsolutions.com/ Lisa also publishes the DECIDE to be Organized blog at http://www.decidetobeorganized.com/ Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.