Confession: I’ve always been a big planner, and I love me a good to-do list.
Okay, that’s likely not really a confession — if you’ve been around these parts for awhile, it probably comes as no surprise to you that I’m extremely Type A.
But here’s the thing: I still haven’t figured out how to perfect my to-do list.
The problem with to-do lists
No doubt, to-do lists are fantastic. But they don’t always have the intended effect of helping me actually get shit done.
For example, there are the weeks I don’t create my to-do list until Wednesday afternoon — not super useful. Or the times I add a random item to the list after I’ve completed it simply to feel the satisfaction of crossing it off. (Admit it, you’ve done it too!)
And then there’s this scenario which happens more often than I’d prefer: Last week, I sat down on Friday afternoon to make my to-do list for the coming week (Try this hack if you haven’t yet! It’s immensely helpful).
After creating the list, I felt even more overwhelmed than I did before. You see, I had an extremely busy week up ahead — one with client assignments, a speaking engagement, new business pitching and guest post deadlines.
On a normal week, I’d look at my list Monday morning, select the easiest “check it off the list” item and complete it, no problem. Then I’d move on to another softball task. Check! Then I’d spend some time clearing my inbox and checking social media, and before I knew it, I’d look at the clock and noticed hours had passed, and I’d literally done nothing actually productive in moving my business forward.
Sometimes this method of procrastination works, and I eventually cram all the hard stuff off in later in the week, but other times, this approach leaves me burned.
With the insanity that was the week ahead, I knew I wouldn’t have time to waste on silly tasks that took me away from doing the “deep work” that actually mattered.
And then I came up with a new idea.
The new approach I’m experimenting with: “Do One Thing”
I took a long look at my never-ending to-do list and dug out a new piece of paper.
On the top of the sheet of paper (a super cute notepad from Target’s oh-so-tempting $1 section, I might add), I wrote the phrase “DO ONE THING” in all caps.
Underneath, I penned each day of the week.
I took a look back at my to-do list and selected the five most important tasks that absolutely, positively had to get done throughout the week.
And I committed to those five items.
Please excuse my awful chickenscratch handwriting.
Every day, there’s one pressing item I have to complete first thing before anything else gets done — before I let my brain get bogged down with email, social media notifications and quick, easy to-dos.
This approach is helping me to recognize that it’s unrealistic to expect that I can accomplish 50 important items in one week.
It’s helping me to prioritize the big things that actually matter, that move the needle.
The science behind a “Do One Thing” mindset
No matter how many times we tell ourselves, “I’m good at multitasking!” or “I love doing 750 things at one time!” the fact of the matter is: Scientifically, it’s simply not true.
Here are some fun facts:
- Shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of productivity time.
- We spend 47 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing.
- Only 2 percent of people can multitask successfully.
How’s that for making the case for doing just one thing at a time?
I’m only a couple of days into this experiment, but this mindset shift appears to be working.
Believe me, I know this isn’t some extraordinary piece of advice — maybe you’ve even heard it or tried it before — but it has certainly been revolutionary in shaping the way I structure my day and my week.
On Monday, I shot out of bed with a purpose — I knew exactly what I was going to do when I sat down at my desk with my steaming cup of coffee.
Same thing on Tuesday. And Wednesday. And today.
This approach allows me to control the day, rather than letting the day control me.
Plus, I end each and every work day knowing that I completed something truly meaningful — something that will actually help me move my business forward.
And that’s a damn good feeling.
While I may miss crossing off my to-do items “check blog comments” or “conference call”, I feel much more satisfied at the end of the day when I look at my Do One Thing list and actually get to check off the big task I completed.
Tell me about your to-do list strategy. Do you love to multitask? Let me know in the comments below.
*Photo via Pexels
Want more gutsy content delivered straight to your inbox twice a month? Be sure to sign up for my FREE #GetGutsy e-newsletter filled with inspiration, ideas and action items to get out of your comfort zone.