Conquering Your To-Do List

Three Steps to Getting Everything Off of Your List

2 min read

a notepad with a pen on top of it
a notepad with a pen on top of it
The Dirty Little Secret

Most list makers experience a delightful surge of dopamine when checking off completed tasks – a sensation of accomplishment. Given that, guess which tasks we focus on? Things we can check off! If you have ever written something (that you've already done) on your list, just so you can check it off, I'm talking to you.

And therein is the irony of the to-do list population: what makes us productive also holds us back. By focusing on the doable tasks, we reward ourselves for activitynot progress. We check 'stuff' off the list that may not translate into moving us toward our goal. It just makes us feel good – akin to eating chocolate on a diet.

How to Conquer Your To-Do List

So, what is a lister to do? (Pun intended.) There are thousands of books and articles on how to tackle lists. However, I've found a straightforward and practical approach, which I use and actively recommend to clients, called "Eat a Frog." Imagine you have to eat a frog for breakfast. Yep, a slimy, gross frog. After that, you can tackle anything thrown your way, right?!?

Now, look at your to-do list and follow these three simple steps:

  1. Circle the "frogs" on your to-do list - Chances are they perpetually live at the bottom of your list. You may recognize them as the frogs you relocate from list to list in the vain hope that you'll get to them someday.

  2. Pick one frog a day and tackle it first thing – Do this before you have time to talk yourself out of it, or create another list detailing the reasons why you aren't doing it. (Yeah, I know your type.)

  3. Repeat daily until you eradicate the frog population. You'll find that the frogs are rarely as bad as we think they will be. Moreover, we save even more time by stopping the procrastination cycle!

After a few days/weeks, your to-do list gets done. Now, THAT is a feeling of accomplishment.

Time is a business owner's most precious resource. So, it's no surprise that time management is one of our most popular coaching topics. The granddaddy of time management tools is the to-do list.

The humble to-do list has a multitude of virtues – it reduces mental load, prevents over-commitment, improves focus, and helps with goal setting. But, we need to address something we "listers" don't like to discuss. (And yes, I am one of you.) Brace yourself - it's the dirty little secret we try to hide: stuff never leaves our lists. (Like 41% of tasks.)

Yes, I said it. We never finish our to-do list. (Oh, the humanity!)

Some of those things will stay put – kind of like a Kardashian. No matter how badly we want them to go away – they are always there.

For more time management tips, download Red Zebra's new Time Management Guide for Small Business
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