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How Busy People Get Things Done 101

09/18/2013 12:49 EDT | Updated 11/18/2013 05:12 EST

I think I might have a case of undiagnosed attention disorder of some kind.

I do not say this flippantly.

I often feel like I have a lot of thoughts and ideas and insights but that I never have an opportunity to act upon them. My life has been a haze of too many things on my to-do list and getting nothing done at times.

I finally fixed that and I want to share with you how I did.

I think it is genius. It probably isn't. It works for me though, so it is genius to me.

Every night before I go to sleep I make a list of things I have to do the following day. I think this is a terrific practice and if you do not do it, I encourage you to. You will sleep better because of it.

If you already engage in the practice of creating a "to-do list" or plan to start, I want you to pay close attention to one super-gigantic mega difference between "to do lists" and "masochistic sentences of dismay and doom." That difference is the difference between the following three things:

1. To do: this means you must do it today or else something terrible will happen.

2. To prepare to do: this means that it is not the last day to accomplish this, so if you have time to chip away at it or squeeze it in, fine, but this is not urgent.

3. To start: this is the thing that you need to be reminded is coming so you start mentally preparing for it.

Here are my top tips to make your to-do list the kind of thing that empowers you rather than makes you feel like an underachiever. (The kind of underachiever that constantly add things from yesterday's list to today's list, that will be eventually added to tomorrow's list.)

How To Make a Sane List 101

First, you will need a piece of paper folded into three.

Second, you will title these pieces of paper as follows: To Do, Up Next, On the Horizon.

Third, you will take your current list and separate the items on it into these three categories.

Fourth, You will only keep five things on each list. Yes, five things.

Fifth, You will write down how much time you know it will actually take you to do each thing on the list (include travel time and prep time) -- write this above the item.

Sixth, all other items not able to make these three lists can be held in reserve. My reserve list is in a little book where I jot down my random ideas, vacations I want to go on, stuff for the kids' rooms, general what-not-of-Mom life-collective stuff to accomplish eventually when the time is right. Usually, tomorrow is not the time.

Seventh, this is the bonus -- add one dream to your on-the-horizon list that you can have within five days. It will be like your own happy inspirational quote. Look at it every time you look at the list. Know that in some small and occasionally insignificant way, each and every things on these lists is getting you to that place -- never cross it off until you have done it. Mine this week it to paint my nails while drinking a tea at home and then on my way to pick up the kids, buy them a treat and buy a stranger behind me in line a coffee.

I double-dog dare you to try this list technique for even just two days. I bet you will feel better, less stressed, more accomplished and have better visibility for what you can, will and want to accomplish today, tomorrow and this week.

I do the same thing for my business. But I change the rules for business. The to-do list is allowed to bulge to 10 things, and the up-next list can be seven while the on-the-horizon list stays at five. If my lists get any longer, I get unfocussed and get less done.

The reserve list will hold all of your ideas and other random stuff, not to worry. You do not need to carry it all around with you to remind you how much is yet to come.

But aren't we lucky there is stuff yet to come?

I meant that, and not sarcastically.

Visit my website for more awesomesauce and practical ways to make your busy and business lives better.

For more by Kelsey Ramsden, click here.

For more on happiness, click here.