Wife to my high school sweetheart, boy mama to sweet baby boy Macrae, and two fur babies Shiloh and Milo, a full time high school history teacher, and overall enthusiast for life. Avid podcast listener, iced coffee drinker, and organized chaos manager. My passion is to encourage and inspire. To cultivate an intentional life, a life full of joy and an abundance of grace.
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Have you ever thought to yourself if only I had more time in the day? Have you ever found yourself thinking if only I could function on less sleep, or drink an extra cup of coffee to get more things done? Our society and culture is obsessed with this notion of the hustle. The obsession for consuming so many things at all hours of the day and being pushed beyond reason to try to get even more things accomplished, all while adding more on our plates. The good news is, life doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there can be a freedom to the every day life and I believe that freedom can be found through our to-do list. And I believe that to-do list is something one shouldn’t run from, or be afraid of, but instead, run towards. Yes, you can absolutely conquer your to-do list and chase your biggest dreams.
I am SO excited to bring you the meat of today’s episode which is all about your to-do list. Yes, your actual to-do list. Now if you have been listening to the podcast from the very beginning then you may remember how I shared a few weeks ago the top things to include on your April to-do list for intentional and purposeful living. That was the first of a series that will air the first Monday of every single month – a specific and intentional to-do list for that month featuring all the things that can enrich and nourish your heart and soul. A fun to-do list. That’s episode 2 if you are wanting to go check that out and give it a listen after this one. I promise you it is a fun one!
This is all about your ACTUAL to-do list. Yes, your to-do list. The one that you chicken-scratched while sipping your cold coffee in between the morning shuffle of to and fro. That to-do list that you purposefully avoid writing because you don’t really want to know all the things that are actually on it. That to-do list that if actually written to its entirety would take up more than your to-do list notepad or your spot on your day planner. That to-do list that you have every intention of working on and setting up the night before to help plan your day for success. That to-do list that you have actually already given up on because why even bother to sort through the chaos in your mind. Yes – that to-do list. This podcast episode is all about THAT to-do list.
My intention of this episode is to encourage a life lived well with the tools to make YOUR to-do list a list that is capable and worth accomplishing. A to-do list that becomes FUN to get done, to work through and complete because YOU know that it is a to-do list that is purposeful and intentional to helping you accomplish your goals and dreams. I am sharing with you 5 things that you need to do to FINALLY get ahead of and be able to conquer your to-do list.
Before I share though, I think it is incredibly important to remind you that I DO NOT have it all together. In fact, most days my togetherness is the furthest thing from the truth. I can confidently say that my intentions are together. And despite the chaos that I work through daily, my hope and desire is to get to a place in my life where things run more smoothly and slowly. To work at a pace that allows moments of rest, a moment where I am not always running out the door in the morning after losing the battle to the snooze button once again.
Therefore, I share all of this with you today in an honest reflection as I sit down myself to tackle my own to-do list. As I reflect and work through the things that have helped me and are currently helping me as I work to try and accomplish more things in a day. It’s funny, and I feel like moms will completely understand this. But I often think to myself my goodness what did I do before Macrae with ALL of this extra time? Now, of course my schedule has always been very busy, probably too busy in fact, and I know when I was in that season of life, before having my son, it felt as if I was always working and never getting all the things done.
Now, after having spent the last (almost ten months) with a baby at home, I truly wonder what I did with all that extra time beforehand. Being a mom forces you in a whole new way, unlike anything else before, to take your moments of uninterrupted time and to zone in to it fully. To buckle down and go, even if that is just for a quick five minute burst of productivity.
I too am in the process of trying to work through and figure out what are the best ways to actually get all the things done. What is the best way to approach a to-do list to truly be effective. What needs to be done so that I can actually thrive? That is what this is all about – practical and tactical tools and advice you can start implementing right away in order to conquer your to-do list.
And the result of those questions, my own personal journey with my own workload and responsibilities is a list of the 5 things you need to do to FINALLY get ahead of your to-do list. A list completely curated from me to YOU with the hope and the intention that you can also work to finally get ahead of your own, personal to-do list, too! Let’s get started!
The first thing you need to do in order to get ahead of your to-do list is to be sure and define a clear standard for your actual to-do list. Your to-do list needs to have order to it. It needs to have structure. As tempting (and fun as it is) to write down a gigantic list of all the things, if you stick to that strategy alone you will set yourself up for failure right away. You will realize before you even finish making your list that there are too many things on it and will feel incredibly overwhelmed not knowing the exact place to begin.
Maybe you are like me and will start adding to your to-do list the things you have ALREADY completed so you can feel a sense of accomplishment and pride from the start. It is essential to make your to-do list clearly DEFINED and ORGANIZED and something that you can come back to every single day. This way you know what exactly to expect.
First things first – decide where your to-do list is going to live. Is it going to live on the notes section of your phone, in your daily planner, on your to-do list notepad. Figure out where your to-do list is going to take residence and commit to it! Commit to your to-do list in that location every single day. This way you can train your brain to know what it is to expect and you can start to build a habit that will set you up for success.
Secondly, what purpose is your to-do list going to serve? Is it going to be all encompassing, including every major focus point on your life? Or is it going to be more specific to one set avenue. For example – for myself, am I going to create my to-do list to be a list of every single thing that I need to do for teaching, blogging, the podcast, home, family, etc. OR, am I going to break things down even further and separate it by section. There really isn’t a right or wrong way here – the importance is providing structure to YOUR to-do list to fit in with your life, your schedule. To help make it easier for your to-dos to get done! I would recommend trying out a few different ways to see what works and once you figure out what works – stick with it!
Use whichever way works to create your very own system within your notebook, notes, or planner to help make your to-do list more clearly defined. Do you need to organize it by section? Do you need to just a giant running list with all the things – whichever it is – figure out what works for you and stick to it every single time. An organized list is the first step to tackling your to-do list so you can actually get the things done!
Alright, regardless of how you organize and structure your to-do list you are most definitely going to want to incorporate a way to ensure that your to-do list prioritizes the very most important items first. You want to clearly define your expectations for the very most important things that need to get done. Many people find value in establishing the “big three” the three most essential tasks that need to get done. Adding those three tasks up front on to the to-do list to illuminate the major focus points of that day. I would strongly encourage you as part of the “how you structure your to-do list” from number 1, that you would also incorporate a “big three” section on the to-do list. That way you know crystal clear the exact things you need to do every single day.
I of course, always am going to recommend to both myself and you to go ahead and establish what your big three are the night before so you can help take away any building anxiety or stress, put it to paper, and thus allowing yourself to sleep a little more peacefully knowing that your to-do list is already prepped and primed for the next day. More like an action plan that is already written for your success to happen. Whether you use the big three, the mighty two or whichever your go-to item, be sure when establishing your to-do list you clearly highlight the very most important items that need to happen first. Easy ways to do this are to think of what has a deadline to it? What are tasks that are simple, don’t require a ton of time, nor a ton of thought process, and would remove a weight from your shoulders? Focus on those types of tasks and work to knock them out with intention first, to help give you the momentum to power through the rest of your list with great and purposeful stride.
Oftentimes when we think of our to-do list we usually think of all the WORK that we need to do. All the THINGS we need to accomplish, tasks that need to be marked complete. But just as much of a priority it is to get our work done, our jobs completed, we also need to prioritize how we take care of ourselves within that very process. In order to FINALLY get ahead of your to-do list, be sure to add moments of rest within your very list so you can actually THRIVE.
By adding moments of rest into your to-do list, not only will this allow you to take your rest, to take your break, to take your moment of fresh air, but it also will give you a sense of accomplishment within the process. The truth of the matter is, our lives are meant to be lived in the present moment. Our lives are meant to be lived resting in the calm, through the mundane. Yet, we don’t do it because we are so busy chasing all our goals and all the things. So when we finally find ourselves in the moment of quiet, the moment of pause, we freak out because we don’t know how to handle it.
What if we normalized establishing moments of rest within our to-do list. Incorporating moments of pause and reflection throughout our daily tasks and job description. I truly think we would accomplish MORE, we would feel less STRESS, less anxious thoughts and feelings, by fully giving ourselves the permission to abide in the rest, soak in the quiet, and sit in the pause. Add in moments of rest and quiet, time of reflection, moments specifically and wholly devoted to YOU within your to-do list and believe in the very power that act holds.
Okay this next one may seem a little different at first and not much of an actual thing, so bear with me. In order to finally tackle your to-do list, find time within your day to be intentional with your to-do list. Instead of making your list and revisiting it to simply mark off the things you have done, treat it instead as a living to-do list. Something that is vibrant, something constantly becoming. Let your to-do list grow with you during the day.
I challenge you to not view your to-do list as the end all be all. Don’t let your to-do list define whether or not you feel accomplished during the day. Oh let me say this again for both YOU and myself – Don’t let your to-do list define whether or not you feel accomplished during the day. Don’t let your to-do list define your worth. We are more than what we can achieve within any given day period. Our days are defined by the moments lived, the feelings felt, the memories made. The moments that fill us with the most joy possible. Like when you are rocking your baby boy at bedtime and he looks up at you in the sweetest voice possible and softly says “mama” for the first time. The success of our day should be measured in moments, not by how many things get checked off our list.
Well, plan a few quick moments throughout your day that you can check in with your to-do list. Where you can truly assess how the day is going and whether it is realistic to be able to accomplish the things on your list. You can check in and see if there is anything that needs to be moved around. Can something be pushed to the next day or does something need to be moved to the top priority? Check in on your heart – how are things REALLY? I would encourage you to take a moment to check in earlier in the morning as you are getting the day started – and then once again during late morning before your lunch break. Once more in the mid afternoon, and really however long you need to be able to move along through your day with ease and work towards confidently tackling your to-do list for once and all.
Probably the most important on this entire list for finally getting ahead of your to-do list for once and for all – ONLY put the things on your to-do list that need to absolutely get done that day. I am the queen of having a competition with myself to see just how many things I can actually write down on my to-do list and place an even greater pressure and expectation to get all of them done. Yet, if I actually calculated the time it would take to complete the task and then factor in the time of day with the time able to work on those things – it would be physically impossible! So why do we do it? Why do we think we have the ability to win against time? We don’t.
To set yourself up for success and create a to-do list that can work WITH YOU – you need to put the things on your to-do list that need to absolutely get done that day and then stop there! Now, if you are really good at prioritizing things and you want to set up your to-do list in a way that has a section for important must-dos and then another section that is for “would be great if I got to it, but don’t need to today” items. You can mess around with the actual structure back in step 1, but most definitely set yourself up for success by only putting down the things you are hoping to get done that day.
For example, I am not so sure why I expect myself to grade all 120 essays within a given day when it takes me weeks to get a task like that done. So instead – if I know I want to grade some essays, it would be way more effective for me to set a goal of say 10 or 15 (based on what my day looks like and what I have the head space for) and start there.
When we are creating our to-do list and working through our to-do lists daily and weekly we want to make sure we are setting ourselves up for success. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help ensure that we can truly get the things done on it and tackle our to-do list for once and for all!
Well, friends, there you have it. The 5 Things You Need To Do To Finally Get Ahead Of Your To-Do List. I truly hope that you took something valuable from this episode. I hope that you gained something that you can take into your life and that it would bring your life more grace, more freedom, and significant joy! Speaking of all things JOY – sharing 16 ways to find more joy in your life today!
If you loved what you heard today it would mean the world to me if you shared it with a friend. Take a screenshot of this episode and share on your Instagram stories. If you want to help make sure others can find this podcast and listen too, be sure to rate & leave a review wherever you listen! I am sincerely so grateful to be a part of your week and I am so excited to do this once again with you next week. Next week on The Best Day Podcast, I am sharing the specific things you need to put on your MAY to-do list. And it’s going to be good! Truly wishing you the best day and week friends.