The beginning of the year is always a good time to take inventory around you. Are there projects that you’ve been putting off for months? Is the shed in the backyard bulging at the seams? Perhaps your garage is so cluttered that there’s only a tiny, barely-navigable path through it? Do things fall out of your closets because they’re so full and messy?
If you’re like me, the list goes on and on. And I own a craft business, so that automatically doubles my to do list right there. I will admit that having so much to do gets to be overwhelming. In fact, it gets so overwhelming that nothing gets done because I’m too busy being stressed and figuring out where to start to actually start. It’s a vicious cycle.
So what do you do? How do you even begin to start when your to do list makes your head spin in circles?
This is what I did last year. You can’t read the text, but the text is not important. I made a list of everything I needed to do, categorized it and rewrote it so that I could work on it all of last year. I have done the same thing this year, but I added to it.
Don’t let the little picture fool you – this piece of paper is 14″ x 14″ square!
Step 1 – Make Your List.
Grab some paper and a pen and start walking around your house, inside and out. Look around, and write down every single thing you see that needs attention in some way. Pay no mind to whether it’s a ‘big’ project or ‘small’. Look around the yard. Check the sheds. Open the closets and cabinets. Look in the attic/basement. Visit all rooms. Write down everything.
Step 2 – Categorize It.
Now that you’ve got this ridiculously huge list that is making your eyes cross and head spin just looking at it, you’re going to categorize everything on it, so get some more paper. How you categorize it is up to you. You can do it by room or by function (like cleaning cabinets or organizing closets). Again, ‘big’ or ‘small’ projects are irrelevant here. Just get ‘like’ projects together in a group.
Step 3 – Prioritize It.
Take each of your categorized lists and prioritize them. (No, this is not called OCD, trust me. This is called making your life easier!) I took my categorized lists and selected the top five most important from each one and put those on a separate list to focus on first. How to choose is up to you. Is there anything financial on your lists? Going over credit card accounts, for example? Might want to make those top priority. Do you know that you’re having guests to your house at some point this year? Do you have anything on your lists with a deadline?
Step 4 – Get Simple Things Done First.
Go back to your categorized lists. Anything that can be done quickly, do them. When I say ‘quickly’, I mean anything that can be done in under thirty minutes. Why? Because anytime you have a huge to do list, it always makes you feel more motivated when you have items crossed off. You need to keep your head in the game, so to speak, so getting a few things done and off the list will encourage you to keep going.
Step 5 – Print and Post.
Transfer your lists to whatever form is comfortable for you. I like paper, and I like using pens and pencils. Some people prefer Excel or Word or other computer programs. If you transfer them to something electronic, make sure to print your lists. They need to be out in plain sight where you can see them all the time. If having a big list with a bunch of crossed off items gives you encouragement, do that. If you prefer to delete and reprint so that you’re looking at a progressively shorter list of just those things left to do, go for it. Neither really makes a difference – it all comes back to keeping your head in the game. Do whichever gives you the motivation to continue.
You might need to set up an allocation calendar if your lists are super long like mine. My lists will take months – not days or weeks – to complete, so allocating my time seemed to make sense. I was in Michael’s the other day and picked up a 12″ x 12″ calendar from their after Christmas sale for less than fifty cents. Then I went back to my categorized lists. I had six categories that I’d divided everything up into (craft business, writing, errands, garden, cleaning, health blog), so I put them in order of the most important to the least important – my business being most important.
Then I went back to the calendar and allocated days for certain categories. Wednesdays are always errand day, so that was a given. Sundays are my racing/football days, so it made sense to divide that into business and story writing day. I wanted to start the week with business goals, so because it was first on my list of importance, it also got Mondays and Tuesdays. Gardening/outside work seemed to fit after the errands on Wednesday since I don’t usually need a full day for those type things. Go through your categories and do the same, allocating more time to the most important one, and work everything around your existing schedule.
I understand if you’re working full time and have kids to shuttle around that your time will not be as plentiful, but you can still make this work. Allocating your time will keep you focused and help you get MORE done. If you’re like me, you can walk around all day, stay busy all day and yet not really accomplish (ie: finish) anything. I walk into one room – “oh I meant to do that” – and start on that only to walk into another room – “oh yeah, I was doing that, too – and mess with that for a few minutes. At the end of the day, I’ve done a bit of fifteen different things, but nothing was completed.
Are there any other daily/weekly/monthly reminders that you need? Put them on the calendar! Don’t forget to allow yourself some open days, too. And if a day needs to get switched, switch it. Don’t worry about changing up your schedule. You’ll find that after just a couple weeks, your stress will be less, and you will already have a few items crossed off of your to do list. I know MY stress level has been greatly reduced because instead of getting to the end of my day and feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing, I now reach the end of my day and find that I’ve completed quite a bit, and it makes a HUGE difference! I should have done this sooner!
Once you’ve cleaned/organized a closet or a room, try the ‘one touch’ method for keeping things clean and tidy. The one touch method means that you touch something only once (or at least as few times as possible). Think about it – you come home and toss your jacket to the couch (first touch). Then later, you toss it to the back of the couch when you want to sit down (second touch). You pick it up again when you’re finally ready to put it away (third touch). You’re moving the jacket around repeatedly when you could have put it away when you got home (one touch). Read more about this here. It’s a GREAT idea! And it makes so much sense!
Just one more suggestion to keep you focused and motivated – got a big project? Like organizing the garage, shed or that huge closet in the bedroom? Take before and after pictures! Next time you have a big project to do, get your pictures out so that you can see just HOW much of a difference your efforts made. Something like this:
What other ways do you keep yourself motivated and on track with your to do list?