Why You'll Never Finish Your To-Do List

The Huffington Post ran an article earlier this year revealing that 41% of the tasks we put on our to-do list are never completed. Disheartening? Yes. True? Also yes...

I keep my to-do lists in a variety of places - in my Productivity Planner at work, in the Notes app on my phone, in Trello, and wherever else takes my fancy that week.

But I find I never look at a list that’s completely crossed off and that can be a little depressing or overwhelming.

So why do we never complete our to-do list and, more importantly, why should we stop focusing on completing it?

You’ve set too many tasks

To-do lists can set us up to fail for a couple of reasons:

  1. We lump everything together in the one list and don’t distinguish the size of each task or how long it will take to complete it. For example, a 15-minute trip to the chemist could be lumped in with starting a website for your new venture - obviously a much larger and more time-consuming task.
  2. You expect you’ll race through your list, when we can really only do so many tasks in a day.

Try and allocate time against each task and return to my productivity planner method - pick only certain tasks you can get done that day (including your one, yes one, most important task) and get those completed.

Your focus is off

As driven women it’s easy to get caught up in the race to perfection. We strive to complete every work task, home task, wellness task, and on and on, only to collapse into bed at night with a lack of satisfaction.

To-do lists are a useful tool but focusing on a laundry list of sometimes arbitrary tasks won’t necessarily fill your life with fun and spontaneity.

Yes, use a to-do list but don’t let it run your life to the detriment of relaxation and fun.

You don’t edit the list

Instead of our to-do list getting shorter, we often lump more and more tasks onto it.

I am particularly guilty of this on my personal to-do list in my phone. I have all sorts of to-dos on there - makeup I want to try (thanks vloggers), films I want to see, dentist appointments I’m avoiding booking...

But some of those items have been on there for over a year - if I haven’t gotten to them yet, it’s time to edit it down. Say no to items that you’re not doing and cull that list!  

You forgot to eat frogs

This step ties into the others, but another reason we don’t get through our list is because we’re avoiding tasks we think will be too difficult or unpleasant to complete (hello dentist).

If you opened your to-do list every day and your most important task was also your least favourite task, imagine how good it would feel to wipe it off that day.

You can read my post about eating frogs here, and if you complete your most dreaded task today, I promise to book the dentist. Deal?

What did you wipe off your to-do list today? Did you also make time for fun? Let me know in the comments below!

How To Plan Your Work Day (And Week)

As a self-proclaimed time management strategy junkie, I've talked about how one of the ways I handle a stressful work day is by using the Productivity Planner.

A large part of my job is project management, so not only am I managing my own time, but also the time of my creative teams and often my external clients too.

The Productivity Planner, like it’s predecessor, the Five Minute Journal, has a super simple layout and beautiful design aesthetic, as well as plenty of inspirational quotes from well-known productive people. So how does it work?

Forward plan your week

Every Monday morning, I sit down with my coffee and start to fill out my tasks for the week - the planner asks you to pick your top 5 tasks, then your secondary 5 and then the 5 tasks you can complete only if you get the top 10 tasks done.

I also fill out the one action that will make my week more productive, which is good to pin down with a clear (and hopeful - ha!) mind on a Monday morning.

Ideas might be turn off email for periods of time, take regular breaks or batch tasks.

Prepare for each day

Once you have those 15 tasks nailed down, you move to the daily workday planner and continue to fill out a fresh plan each morning.

Not only do you choose your number 1 most important task to complete that day (and again the subsequent secondary tasks you can complete if that gets done), but the planner also encourages the Pomodoro technique.

The idea is that you work for 25 minute intervals, then take 5 minute breaks in between. So you estimate how many 25 minute blocks you need to get your task/s done, then being the race against time.

Look back on Fridays

Finally on a Friday afternoon, I complete the weekly review - no coffee this time, but a glass of wine about an hour away...

I note down what went well, what I learnt and (the most important part I think) what didn’t get done on my list and what will flow over into the next week.

That part of the review is particularly insightful as it reveals where I’ve procrastinated, where people haven’t gotten back to me on time or where I am or the team are letting projects slip.

What do you think of the Productivity Planner principles? I’ve been following them fairly consistently throughout 2016.

Would you like a follow up post with my learnings (and failings) around the process so far this year? Let me know in the comments below. 

July Recap and August Intentions

And just like that, August is upon us…It’s the last month of winter here in Australia, but also usually the coldest month here in Melbourne.

I had a busy July, mainly due to work, and am glad to say things are quieting down on that front so I can get some more balance back.

So how did I do with my July intentions and what’s up next for me?

July Recap

Seek out winter warmers

As I looked over the last month, including my photos, I realised I actually had a lot of sunny memories.

We like to moan about the weather but chilly sunny days can be counted on here in winter and I can handle this season when there’s sun.

A weekend in Healesville was a highlight with country town fun including walks, wineries and a gin tasting - not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

I’ve also had some cosy dinners in the city with friends and even when it’s wet, Melbourne is still beautiful when slick with rain.

Put first things first

This one has made a big impact on my life in the last month.

As I mentioned in my habits post here, I’ve been planning my week and therefore having a much nicer balance of blogging, study, catch ups with friends and exercise (all alongside the busy work month).

I really encourage you to write down what’s ahead for the week on a Sunday, if only to get it out of your head and easily visible once the busy weekdays take off.

August Intentions

Interrupt the negative voice

Another habit I reinstilled during July was journalling before bed. It’s been insightful and slightly terrifying.

I’ve been tending to have (self-proclaimed) crazy ‘worst case scenario’ thoughts lately - mainly about what other people think of me and also around work situations.

I’m still not sure how to alleviate these negative thoughts but am going to do some digging this month and see if I can’t stop them in their tracks.

Up the training at work

Continued professional development has always been important to me, but it’s so easy for it to fall by the wayside in between the daily to do list and busy weeks at work.

We have a few products at work I’ve been meaning to learn more about for (ahem) over a year, so I’m going to try and be ruthless this month and block out time and headspace to up my knowledge.

What’s your intentional plan for August? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!