How not to waste your time on “To do lists”

to do list 2

I stopped writing “to do lists” few months ago. I realized this in the middle of a storm of little things that did not happen. I did not have “to do list” for a while. Tickets were purchased with delay then issued for wrong date, new IPhone was locked with all passwords locked and lost, online training has expired, loyalty card blocked. I panicked and felt loss of control. The reality is none of these things were critical until the last moment and I missed the moment when it became “last”. This created a feeling of loss of control but not more because most of these things were non critical AT ALL. Either not needed or could be automated.  So as a working mother who manages herself, her family and her career do I still need to do lists?

I got weary of long and repetitive to do lists. If you know what I mean here is what can make your life more enjoyable without being less organized.

4 Key principles: “less is more” 

  • Build habits, they will replace to do lists

Humans have a limited amount of willpower that they can use every day (multiple research and books say). Writing to do lists, checking and following takes willpower.  … Laura Venderkam in  “what the most successful people do before breakfast” writes that  once things become habitual they operate as automatic processes. Do you write “brush your teeth” or “take a shower” in your to do list? It long became a basic routine. I built a habit of doing all monthly payments between 27th and 29th of each month. I accumulate all my payments and process them online ONE time a month. I do not need “to do list” for that. I do not write exercise 3 times a week on a weekly to do list anymore. Maks never has “crossfit training” on his to do. He just does it every day of workweek like he brushed his teeth twice a day.

  • Change mindset from “ do” to “get done”

“Getting things done” and in “4 hour working week” and many other managing yourself publications  focus on moving from activities to results.  This was the most important mindset change for me. Every day I think of 1 thing that needs to get done and I have it on the top of my head, I do not need lists to remind me.  My weekly “to get done” lists are shorter and more focused than “to do” and I measure myself on results which is more rewarding.

  • Share responsibilities with others and automate

Once my nanny learned her routines she does not need detailed to do lists.  For weekly food shopping we use recurring  list stored on the phone of Max and update with “what the week feels like” ideas.  Maks took a picture of all my iphone details  4 month ago so when I postponed IT help desk  appointment and over 4 months lost all details he sent it to me and helped to avoid a crisis.

  • Use ONE place/method to keep all you need to get done

I tried notes on PC or BBry, managing by calendar, having work priorities in one book and separate home to do books, none were so efficient as 1 place where you write it all. Today I have 1 working notebook where I write weekly ‘to get done” list for work on 1 side of notebook and add personal/home list on the opposite. I open and I see it all. Sometimes I do daily ones if I really need to focus myself and if day gets messy, but I try to avoid it and refer to weekly ones. I check them at least daily to see progress.

In summary

Staying organized in your mind is easy – deep down you know what is most important today/ this week.  Getting routines and habits going (payments, exercise, brushing your teeth) takes more effort – but long term eliminates many recurring items from your do list. Getting random essentials done – needs a “list”. Try weekly or daily in the most hectic and challenging days. Remember if you are focusing on important things you do not need reminders. Few important things can stay on your mind.

I will continue to do “to do lists” for random little things and to set weekly focus areas at work. But I try to do less and spend my time on choosing what really needs to get done and what is  not needed AT ALL.

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