To Do lists, organization, being productive, getting it all done… The pressure of life and keeping everything going can get so overwhelming that we freeze up and get nothing done. I may be speaking from personal experience but I am pretty sure I am not the only one. Being organized and productive is definitely second nature to some but they most likely just inherently do many of things things listed below. For the rest of us, here are some steps in creating a day that will keep you on track, inspired, organized and capable of doing so much more than you thought possible. Defining your day is just the beginning to unleashing a more powerful and creative you.
The very first thing you do in your day can set you up for success. It can also set you up for imminent doom. You have a lot on your mind the moment you wake up. It’s easy to just mindlessly sit down to think and all of a sudden your in your email, checking your phone and Facebook is magically already open… and you’re still in your pajamas with crazy lady hair. Make a habit of sitting down and actually clearing your mind and making a plan. A set routine to create your day, if you will. Start with thinking about how you want your day to go. “No plan” quite often means aimless. Think about how you need to start your day. Is it getting fully dressed or coffee and a quiet place to sit for ten minutes or maybe ten minutes of yoga. There is actually so much to this topic including filling yourself up with life enhancing activities so you can begin clear headed and ready… Here is a link to that article. Motivation… here we go!
– Write down something motivational… A quote that speaks to you or a meme you’ve saved on your quote board on Pinterest will do the trick.
– Set an intention. As silly as it may sound, what phrase or word would describe something you’d like to accomplish? Organized, creative, understanding, focused… all good words. And then check in at the end of the day and see how your word or phrase worked out. It’s surprising how often that simple practice actually makes a difference and gives your day direction or something to be aware of throughout the day and you actually end up really resonating with it throughout the day.
– What could go right today? So often we can be negative. I know I am really good at focusing on what could or did go wrong. Try starting your day with a prediction about what would be great.
Some people love lists and some people don’t. But there comes a time when there are so many things floating around in your head from work tasks to buying cat food that you really need some organization. Making To Do lists can be very helpful. The trick is to not get a list going that totally overwhelms you to the point of being frozen and unable to start anything.
– Figure out a system of writing things down that works for you. I’m not going to lie. I am a master at creating new systems. I get excited about one and then the newness wears off and I create another one. I also used to write everything on post it notes and junk mail. That was a terrible plan. Years ago I moved to composition books. There is always one with me. Whatever randomness I need to write down, it goes in the composition book. I just recently split them into ‘work’ and ‘life’. I am a bit crafty and enjoy making them pretty… unless I have a lot to do. But sometimes that break to create something that is artistic is just the thing I need to refuel. So let your creative self loose once in awhile and make something functional and pretty.
– Write a master list of everything. Include all aspects of your life on this list from doing laundry to creating an amazing presentation for work. The point of this list is to clear your mind so that you can function in an organized manner. This is the place where you can just dump the simplest of tasks to the most complex.
– Categorize your master list. This is important to get your timing correct and also to get you in the mindset of where you are at any given time and what is possible. You can’t really do laundry when you are at work and if you work from home… you need to separate work and home more so that you aren’t constantly changing directions. Home – Work – Life – Kids – Misc… whatever your life consists of, make a section and add your master list items to it in an organized way. Part of the download available at the end of this article is a Master List worksheet.
– Create a list of tasks for today. That master to do list you created is not just for today… breathe. Start each day with a 15-30 min block of creating your plan for this day only. Go through the master list and look at what is most pressing and do-able for the present day.
This is a book I created to add my positive affirmations for the day as well as keep track of each of my businesses. It’s a simple to do list and has been my most productive method of keeping on track with a system of sorts for each of my businesses. I just printed out my sheets in color, cut them in half, and took them down to the office store and had them bind it for three dollars.
The image above is my daily to do sheet which is your gift at the end of this article. This template will give you a place to write down everything from what you need to get done to the inspiration you need for the day. The trick is to get your to-do list down to a manageable amount once you learn what you are truly capable of. If your day is mostly highlighted or crossed out, you are on track to being kind to yourself and understanding your capabilities and your limits.
I am notorious for creating a to do list that is impossible to get done. Whats the problem with that? I end my day feeling like I failed that only five things were accomplished instead of twenty. Mind you, one of them might have been ‘paint the living room’ that took all day and I still got four other items scratched off the list… but in my mind, failure. So, be realistic about your day.
– Guesstimate what the probable amount of time is for each task. When you have twenty minutes left before you have to leave for an appointment, there is no way that you will want to start writing a blog post. You’ll end up sitting there staring at your computer and the twenty minutes will be wasted. Large projects need a mental space for a large amount of time. Make sure you are giving yourself enough time for each task. This makes it so much easier to have the big picture of your available time and what to do next. A phone call or an email can happen before that appointment twenty minutes from now.
– Prioritize the most important to least important. The more you put on the list that you must get done today, the more likely it is that you will fail. Three must do’s is plenty for the average day. Again, be wary of time. If I have more than two tasks that take two hours each, the chances of either getting done are slim…. because I just overwhelmed myself.
– What will take the most time and what will take minimal time. This goes back to guesstimating the time. If you know prepping pictures for a blog post takes two hours and you only have an hour in the morning, don’t set yourself up for failure by planning it for that hour as if you might get half of it done. Unless of course, you are super capable of doing projects in parcels. I am not. If you can’t figure out why you aren’t getting things accomplished and waste time, the reasons are most likely either being overwhelmed or not having adequate time and expecting results. Give yourself a break and allow adequate time. Trust me on this one.
– Schedule downtime. I can’t stress this enough. I need this advice myself. Create this time for not only your mental clarity but your physical body as well. Add five minutes to the top of every hour to stretch. More importantly, get yourself outside even if it is just your face out an open window. Breathe in some fresh air. Feel the sun, or rain or snow on your face. If you can add this in to your day on a regular basis, I guarantee you will notice a difference in your attitude towards life and your mind and body will thank you.
– Check-ins throughout the day. Create a stopping point three or four times during the day and check in with yourself and self evaluate your progress. I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself four hours into my work day and realize I’ve been pretty aimless. And then to make matters worse, I get bummed and continue to get nothing done… it’s a terrible cycle. This aimlessness might be easier to do when you work for yourself at home… I don’t know. But simple check-ins will help keep you on task. If you are at a lunch break and realize you have a three hour project still on your high priority for today, you know what to do when lunch is over and can get yourself motivated to get back on track.
This is an important one at the end of the day. This is where you will look back on what happened today and can see what tomorrow will start to look like. If you didn’t get some important things done, don’t fret… tomorrow is still a good possibility.
– Evaluate your progress. What did you get done? Give yourself a pat on the back. What needs to move over to tomorrow? What could have gone better? What went great?
– Re-organize for tomorrow. Make a note of what needs to be pushed to tomorrow and what new things need to be added to the master list. Don’t create your To Do list for the next day quite yet. That’ tomorrow’s first task.
– Clean your space. I am definitely guilty of this. I can be so done with a day that I just leave everything out.. it doesn’t seem so bad. Just a few things here and there. It looks like it might be easier for me to just pick back up where I left off if I leave it all out. Sometimes that may be true. But speaking from experience, a clean work space creates a clean start to a new day.
Before and After: The left photo is how my desk looks as I work. It’s not terrible but I have things out that I need and a few I don’t. The right photo is the end of the day. It took about five minutes to get everything in it’s place. If I fail to do this and come to the desk on the left in the morning, my day starts off scattered and random. Why? I have no idea where I left off! I have to sit there trying to figure it out. Why are all my logos open in Photoshop??? I don’t know! Start your day fresh with taking a few minutes to organize at the end of the day. You can do it! (That’s my motivational speech to myself).
It’s so easy to go from one thing to the next and just move through your day and your life without stopping to think. Studies have shown that people who have long lives are grateful. They practice gratitude. It’s a character trait that must run through the lot of them. Take some time at the end of the day to give yourself gratitude about whatever you can think of. This is a great time to not get down on yourself for a job poorly done but think of things you did do well. Maybe calling to get a doctor’s appointment only took five minutes to do but it had been hovering over you for two months and you did it. Maybe feeling well and energized was a great part of the day. I know you can think of something!
– Time for gratitude will shift your attitude from the negative to the positive in no time. If you can’t think of anything because the day was terrible… you’re alive, you’re mind is working, the sun shines, the birds sing. I know there is something and this might be extra important if you are struggling with a bad day to think of something to be grateful for. Every day is a gift and it’s easy to lose sight of that and go mindlessly through tasks. But this exercise will ground you and bring you to to the present… even if it is only a few moments.
One last note with all this talk about To Do lists… Your value is not in what you highlight, check off, or scratch out. When your value is all wrapped up in your To Do list, it is very easy to feel discouraged and negative about yourself or even a little bit superior. If you can get that, you can drop the pattern of trying to get to everything done to feel good about yourself. This will be a huge block in creating a rich, meaningful, satisfying life. This is also no small task. As women, it is very easy for us to try and find our value in what we accomplish rather than who we are.
We’ve created a To Do List print out that captures many of the things discussed in this article including the master to do list worksheet. Click Here to download the PDF and start your day off right being inspired, organized and ready for action every single day.