I keep getting this curious question time and time again. “How do you get everything done?”
Especially against the backdrop of a young family with two toddlers. I have already written a detailed post that outlines the practical ways I try to stay as productive as possible.
But I want to reinforce this key element in the way I think about lists and how you can start looking at your own To-Do list a little differently.
First of all, my personal context which I am super grateful for:
- I have an amazing husband who is supportive and doesn’t bat an eyelid when it comes to staying home and taking care of our kids when needed.
- We have a flexible work lifestyle which we’ve worked hard to build. This means freelancing fulltime and flexible work scenarios
- We don’t have trust funds, CEO salaries, or other sources of income funding our lifestyle. We live well within our means. I wish we had millions stashed away somewhere but we don’t.
- We have two beautiful active toddlers who are fulltime jobs on their own.
This is the backdrop I’m working against. Everyone’s situation is different. Some easier, some more challenging so take what you can from the advice below.
So back to the topic at hand:
To-Do lists can become never-ending compilations that cause constant anxiety. We look through them, parse through all the items that need to be done, and become immobilized by fear or overwhelmed. That feeling is counterproductive because it causes us to turn to other forms of entertainment to keep us from staring down that massive list and procrastinate.
And frankly, all the items that end up on our To-Do lists don’t even have to be there at that very moment. You don’t have to start thinking about some items until a couple weeks or months into the future, yet we add them to our list, which forces them into our consciousness in the now.
So what I’ve been advocating and have also implemented is what I call the 3-task List.
This means that instead of maintaining a long To-Do list and checking off items as I work through them, I actually cut that list down to only three (3) items per day. Not just creating a daily To-Do list, but paring it down so drastically that I’m forced not to think about everything else I have to do.
And even better, those three items don’t all have to be work-related as you can see in the example below with the baby’s doctor appointment. I also paired heavy tasks with lighter tasks too.
I use Microsoft OneNote to organize and sync my weekly tasks similar to this:
- Appt – Baby to doctor @ 10am
- Start – Article 1 for pub X
- Send– Photos to client X
- Lunch – Colleague @ 12pm
- Continue – Article 1 for pub X
- Upload – Post to STS
That’s it! Yes, that simple.
Please read the more detailed post where I go into depth on how I handle daily emails, last minute assignments, new and existing deadlines, and social media.
In a nutshell, I burst my To-Do list into blocks of three tasks each and spread that list over the entire year by date and deadline.
So if I have something due in August, I don’t even visually see it on my To-Do list until early August based on my three daily task breakdown.
Are you with me?
I still have a lot of work to do and I’m getting better at delegating including bringing on paid interns as needed. Plus, I’m actively trying to minimize my time on Facebook. If I breeze through all three tasks, I can look at tomorrow’s tasks and see what I can quickly do today.
Bursting apart my To-Do list into three daily tasks has done wonders for my sanity. So I rarely feel overwhelmed.
Tired? Yes, I have two active toddlers and I’ve often pooped by the end of the day.
But overwhelmed by too much work? I do have a lot of work to do, of course, but I rarely feel overwhelmed because I’ve spaced them out using my 3-task technique.
How do you stay productive?