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5 Easy Ways To Manage Your To-Do List

02/24/2016 12:53 EST | Updated 02/24/2017 05:12 EST

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To-do lists. Some swear by them, some hate them and some obsess over them.

I've been a to-do list flip-flopper for most of my life. I go through periods where the process of writing things down helps me focus, there are other occasions when I find them a waste of time. In the five minutes I've taken to write the list I could have spent it getting stuff done.

Fortunately or unfortunately (still not sure which side I land on) I've been going through a to-do list phase. I blame this phase entirely on my pregnancy. While not a complete disaster, my brain is indisputably functioning at a slightly lower level than I'm used to. I always have a list in my head of what needs to get done, but lately that's where it stays. Stuck in some foggy part that knows something needs to happen, yet I'm just not quite sure what it is. Hence the to-do list phase.

Like most of you out there, my list of what needs to be done is long. If I were to combine the tasks I would like to accomplish for work, for family and for me, I would end up sitting around writing for days. I would also lose my mind because it would be so daunting that I would never move forward. Let's look at a few ways to make your list manageable.

Be Realistic with Your Time

Unless you're writing down every single thing you need to do (like 'brush teeth' and 'put on socks') you have a limited time to get these 'extra' tasks done. Try jotting down how long each will take, be realistic. 'Clean out closet' isn't a 5 minute project. Set aside 30 minutes (or whatever works) to tackle your list. Defining a realistic amount of time can help you stay on track.

Differentiate Between Long and Short Term

Again, you need to reign yourself back into the real world. Paint room, clean out garage and organize photos have no business anywhere near your to-do list. Have a separate paper or place to keep track of long term projects.

Prioritize

Differentiate between wants and needs. Be critical of what you have written down. Do I NEED to get this done today or would it just be nice to cross it off?

Stop Making Them So Long

If you've read above then you won't have this problem but it needs to be said. Having a sheet full of what you need to do in a day is too much. You're setting yourself up for failure. You want to end the day with a sense of accomplishment not inadequacy.

Don't Beat Yourself Up

Kids get sick. Friends call to chat and it turns into an hour long conversation. Life happens. There is always tomorrow. I have had many days go off the rails because of the unexpected. I had such realistic goals for what needed to get done, but it just didn't happen. While it can be hard in the moment (and I still occasionally beat myself up) I try to take a deep breath and focus on what did get done. It's not the end of the world that the sheets didn't get changed and the blog post didn't get written. I've managed to keep my kids alive another day, they've eaten (relatively) healthily and no bones were broken. Some days that's just what you have to call a win.

Happy Organizing (and List Making)!

Do you have an organizing question or problem? Get in touch with me here.

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