There’s always so much going on in the online world that sometimes it’s really hard to keep your focus on what you know you need to be doing, and being consistent at getting it done. At least, that’s always been my experience.
I don’t know about you, but I start every day with to-do lists. The sad thing about that is that on a lot of days, there’s not much that gets done. Other things crop up, I go down rabbit holes in a completely different direction, or sometimes I’m just plain old undproductive with a capital UN.
What about you? Did you make to-do lists for the day? Are you following them, or are you easily distracted?
If you are, don’t feel too bad. There’s a statistic floating around out there that says approximately 41% of items on most people’s to-do lists never get done. Part of the reason for that is because we don’t always make the right kind of to-do lists.
Here are five reasons your to-do lists don’t always get done:
Do any of these apply to you?
Reason #1 – There are too many things on your list
Your to-do lists were never meant to be never-ending stories that go on and on. Ideally they should keep you focused on priority daily tasks you can actually get done in the time you have to work. If you find that you have a ton of different task on your massive list, try creating multiple lists – one for each project – instead. That’s one of the easiest ways to make sure your list doesn’t overwhelm you.
I’ve found three good ways to combat the ultra-long to-do list:
- Hire an accountability coach that will call you out on your over-abundant and unrealistic list of things you can get done in a day! I’ve done this twice and it works every time… but it’s also very easy to backslide once your coaching sessions end.
- Use the smallest post-it notes you can as your to-do list. I use the 2.5″ x 1.5″ ones and they don’t leave room for any more than about three items. These should be the priority, absolutely must get done today items from your master list(s).
- Do a time audit. Keep track for a couple of weeks of what’s on your list and what you get done in a day. You’ll probably find, like I did, that things take a lot longer in reality than they do in your mind when you’re creating your list.
Reason #2 – There are no deadlines on your list
Deadlines were never meant to be fluid. Setting hard deadlines and the being disciplined enough to follow through is how you achieve your goals and get things done. I know that as a creative person it can be hard to do, and you want to just go with the flow, but sometimes that creates more stress than what it’s worth.
Because the truth is, to-do lists without deadlines does nothing but give you permission to procrastinate, or not do the tasks on it at all.
Reason #3 – There’s no room for anything unexpected
One thing I’ve learned is that there’s no such thing as a perfect schedule. No matter that I think I’ve planned the perfect day, it usually manages to go off the rails by the time I’ve been up for an hour. Sometimes I don’t even get to finish my coffee before something pulls my attention away from what I’d planned for the day.
It’s so important to build flexibility into your schedule, and to leave time for emergencies and the unexpected. As solopreneurs we wear a lot of hats, and sometimes things come up that have to be dealt with in the moment.
Reason #4 – You’re thinking too long-term
Having long-term goals is NOT a problem. I just want to be really clear on that. But, if you are giving yourself too much time to complete tasks or are creating to-do lists for more than one day then your overall plan is not going to be effective. To-do lists should complement and move forward the goals you’ve set in your 90-day action plan, not replace them. That’s why it’s important to keep separate master lists, and have only the priority tasks that will move you forward on your daily list.
Reason #5 – Your to-do lists lack clarity
Clarity is crucial to achieving your goals – both long and short term. If you don’t have a clear picture of what you want, you can’t be sure you will have the right plan either. A lack of clarity leads to unorganized plans, ideas, and actions. It’s important to understand what you need and want and prioritize to get things done in order to meet your deadlines. .
So, in the interests of transparency, I have to tell you that I’m pretty much guilty of all of these bad habits. That being said, I’d be lost without my to-do lists to at least start the day. To-do lists are a great tool for keeping you on task and pointed toward your goals, as long as you replace these bad habits with better ones that keep you focused and on task.
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