photo via Little Emma English Home
I can’t live without lists. I often put everything on my daily lists including doing dishes, phone calls to family and time to browse my favorite blogs. I love the feeling of the completion of even the simplest tasks. It fuels me and helps me organize my constantly running mind. I have yearly lists of personal accomplishments I want to achieve. I have both monthly and yearly business lists that act as mini, ever changing business plans. Yes, I am a list addict but I love it.
People have interesting relationships with their to-do lists. Some people are good about writing them but actually do so on random scraps of paper, easily hidden on a desk full of stuff. Others put a million things on their list making accomplishing them almost impossible. The latter also often don’t make time for important things like sleep, exercise or proper diet. Perfectionism might be the leading cause of this behavior or a love for the masochistic feeling of self-induced failure. Creating an unattainable list is the worst form of self care.
What is your relationship with your to do list? What habits surrounding the list would you like to change?
I want to help guide you to creating what I call a “winning time management formula.” The trick here is that I cannot tell you exactly what that should be. We all have our own needs and ways of working but I will share my own formula for inspiration and help you discover yours.
The biggest issue is often developing an understanding of what is a reasonable amount to accomplish and a certain amount of time. I will always encourage you to put extra goals on your monthly and yearly goal lists but your daily should be something you can actually achieve. Creating a common feeling of “there just isn’t enough time” and “damn, I didn’t finish it all again” is no good. It creates a downward spiral of negative feelings and honestly does no one any good. So a good rule of thumb is to only put three to four big tasks on your list a day. You will need to define what big tasks mean to you. If you work from home it may go something like this:
Big task – go to the gym
Big task – lunch meeting with client
Work, emails, social media
Big task – art opening
Dinner at home with partner
In this case three big tasks seem like enough. You could have dinner out with friends or go to another social networking event but doesn’t that dinner at home seem so much more refreshing and rejuvenating. Another event might really affect your productivity the next day.
So how do you create this list? Well my winning formula may seem like a lot to most. I use a combination of paper and online productivity programs. My year long goals go on a pretty piece of paper on my wall and often arise from a huge brain dump on every New Years Day. This list includes both personal and professional goals. My personal goals I just let float in the universe and I look at the list often and check things off as I go or change things as my desires change. Going backwards, I create monthly to do lists for the business. These go on both large note cards that are on my wall and in a program called Hitask. In Hitask, I can break everything down into weekly and daily tasks. I do the same every Sunday. I plan my week Sunday evening and write things down on daily note cards that I can keep on my desk and grab every morning (Thanks Lauren and Derek of Curiosity Shoppe for this trick!). I put events on my Google calendar with timers reminding me 1 to 2 days ahead. This may seem like a lot but I am sharing this because I quickly learned that I cannot live on software programs alone but I love their timers and email reminders. I love pretty paper, notes on my walls and the ability to physically check things off so I have to use pen and paper too. The key here is to develop an understanding of what does and doesn’t work for you and to accept that you have to find your own formula. There are plenty of app experts out there if you need more guidance and feel free to contact me for more specifics too.
Remember energy will fluctuate. Sometimes we get this crazy energy and can get so much done and other times we just want to crumble the list up. It’s ok! Instead pick a thing you really really want to do and you are passionate about and focus on doing just that. That alone can be rejuvenating and inspiring.
Life will throw curveballs. You won’t always be able to stick to your lists. But let the lists ground you and give you sanity when things go awry. At least you have created a reference and can go back and see what you actually didn’t get done.
Shelly Kerry — Lightbox SF
Shelly Kerry is the founder of the program Creating Space, Mindful Living – motivating and inspiring people to run their businesses more efficiently. She helps others look at their personal and professional lives and explore what is and isn’t working. As a jewelry designer she has spent many years testing and honing the skills and discipline needed to run your own creative business while still having time for friends, family and fun. She puts her wealth of experience to use in the Creating Space service – healthy living advice to help keep you motivated and make the most out of your already busy schedule. She will help you find both the physical and emotional space so you can pursue your dreams and she’ll always insist there’s time for yourself.
Shelly writes guest posts on living your best life on well-known blogs such as Kanelstrand, Handmade Success and Awfully Grand and is pursuing a Core Strengths coaching certificate through San Francisco State University.Share on Facebook