When I talk to people who are really busy with life, I see some things they have in common. The major thing is, they think they are more busy than they really are. Having kids in the equation throws a lot of curveballs in the mix but there are a lot of ways to productively schedule your day and get a lot done in the process.
Below, I am going to talk about how to filter your tasks and get down to the tasks that really matter.
1) Write It Down
In my experience, we can’t remember every single thing we have going on. There is always something slipping through the cracks when we don’t have a system or place for writing things down. Once you get in the habit of writing information down and trusting your system, you are less likely to forget things. This is the basis of systems like “Getting Things Done”. If you choose to use a system like that, great. It really does work for a lot of people.
When you start out, you will need to spend some time and write down a big list of everything you have to do. I mean everything. Getting everything out on paper or in a document can really put things into perspective. If you want to focus on one area of your life like work, you can. However, all the other tasks in your head will keep popping in your mind and distract you.
Getting everything out of your head is really important. If you come across something new or that you forgot, you can always add it to the process.
2) Sorting Through the Mess
The next step in the process is to sort through all of your to-do. Make a couple of columns and start to rate them. Some sample columns could be:
- Urgent (Should have been done last week.)
- Important (Probably should be working on this now.)
- Coming up (Next projects in line.)
- Not important right now (Not sure why I said yes to this.)
Try and use as few columns as possible when sorting. This will help you really think about the task and where it fits into the scheme of things.
3) Group Things
When you have everything sorted into how important the task is, you can start to group them. These groups can be made in a couple of ways. The first is to group by project. If you are working on a fundraiser for example, you can add all of the urgent tasks for fundraiser like emailing the volunteers, calling vendors and going to the county clerk to get a permit.
Another way is to group different types of tasks. If you have several phone calls to make, make them all in one sitting. Send all of your emails or write a bunch of the copy for the flyers and websites all in one sitting. This may help you get into a groove and get things done faster because the actions are similar.
Because you have already sorted the items into levels of importance, you know what you need to do first.
4) You Can’t Do It All
If there is anything on your list that you will really struggle with, write down who you can ask for help or delegate the task to. Look at the important and not so important tasks. Can you get some help with what you are a little behind on? Can you say no to or delegate some of the things you said you’d help with just because you were being nice?
Eliminating some of the tasks in this way will usually help free up a lot of your scheduled time. Be a little stingy with your time.
5) Doing Stuff
When you can easily look at your list and see all of the things you need to do and it is labeled in a way where you can pick out a group of tasks based on their importance, it is a lot easier to schedule your days.
Like I mentioned before, grouping the tasks in a way so that you can get in a groove will help you be more focused on the task(s) at hand. You will be amazed at how quickly you will whip through your list.
Another good trick I like to use is to have one big task going and one or two smaller tasks ready to complete if you need to wait for a reply or approval or there is some other minor hold up on your big main task.
Overall, any system is better than just randomly plucking to-do items out of your head to do them. Having everything you need to do written out in front of you might be a little overwhelming at first. It will help you see all of the tasks you say yes to that really take time away from your important goals. When you know what is important to you and exactly what you have going on, you can see where it could fit into your schedule, if at all.
by Trevor Dobrygoski