For years I tried to manage all I had to do on one to-do list. I tried prioritizing that list using various methods, all without success.
The problem with having one list is it’s like trying to force a semi-truck to drive down a country lane next to a bicycle. Or force my size 9 feet into dainty size 6 shoes. Some things just don’t fit. Here’s an example of what my list used to look like:
1. Make orthodontist appointment for Robbie
2. Plan Dylan’s birthday party
3. Deposit check
4. Redesign blog
5. Buy dog food
6. Clean the house
These are all normal things a woman might do. So, what was the problem?
The problem is three of those items aren’t simple tasks. Calling the orthodontist’s office takes one step, and it’s done. Boom. Check that baby off the list! But planning a party, redesigning a blog, and clean the house are made up of multiple tasks. To put them on a to-do list is just asking for failure.
Here’s what I’ve learned: cleaning the house isn’t a task. It’s a project. Projects don’t belong on a to-do list. Only single-step tasks belong there.
Once I realized the mistake I’d been making for years, I tossed my to-do list and started fresh.
Then I did something brave. I did a complete inventory of everything I needed to do. It took days to complete. I decided to include immediate needs and everything I’d been putting off. The small and the big all got listed.
Once I was sure I’d captured everything, I sat down and had a good cry. My life was seriously out of control.
Drying my tears, I reviewed the monstrous list and divided it into two categories: one-step tasks and multi-step projects. That was better. But I wasn’t done yet. I looked at all the projects, and realized some of them were urgent and others weren’t. Then I divided that list into current and future projects.
There was one more step. Since every big project is completed one step at a time, I realized I needed to add tasks to each of my projects. So I got some more paper and started to list all the tasks I could think of for each project.
These lists became the foundation of my project management notebook. And yes, I did put it in a three-ring binder. I know I could have created a digital notebook, but there was something about putting it on paper that made it real for me. Although I still had a lot to do, having it all in one place brought relief.
Now, writing my to-do list for the day is like going to a buffet and picking a piece of chicken here and a scoop of mac and cheese there. I look over my master lists and only put on my to-do list the tasks I can realistically accomplish that day. I might pick a simple task, like make an appointment, then pull another task from a project list.
This system revolutionized my approach to getting work done. It also eliminated a few of my reasons for procrastination, which included forgetting things (now they were in my safe place) and feeling overwhelmed when I looked at a big project on my to-do list.
Now my to-do list might have five items on it, rather than 25. Five is much more manageable. And when I finish those five, I can go back for more from my project management list.
Over the years, this system has actually helped me manage my workload so well that I don’t have to create massive master lists anymore. The process helped me realize I’d taken on too much, and I did some serious editing. But when I get overloaded—and it still does happen—I know to go back and create that master list again.
Heavenly Father, thank You for creating order. Help me bring order to my to-do list and manage my workload more efficiently. I want to bring glory to you in every area of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.
If you need more margin in your life, you might appreciate this recent post on Glynnis’ blog.
Create a master list of everything you need to do – now and in the future. Put it all in one place and then divide it into tasks and projects.
Kathi and Glynnis pick up the conversation from where they left off last week discussing Doing Busy Better: Enjoying God’s Gifts of Work and Rest. They wrap the discussion on “bad busy” and pick up the conversation with what “good busy” looks and feels like in our lives. From her own experience, Glynnis realized she is always going to be busy. It’s her personality. She is her best with a lot going on. She was able to stand back and realize what kinds of busy fostered good or bad in her life.
Find out what the “good busy” is in your life and how to identify if you’ve crossed over into bad busy.
Leave a comment on this podcast within 7 days telling us “What part of busy is God nudging you to give away?” A winner will be selected randomly from the comments to receive a copy of Doing Busy Better: Enjoying God’s Gifts of Work and Rest.
*Book Giveaway only available to US participants.
Kathi talks with her guest, Glynnis Whitwer, author of Doing Busy Better: Enjoying God’s Gifts of Work and Rest. They discuss how being busy is not wrong, but there are ways to do it better where a sustainable balance exists between work and rest. And don’t we all need to find that balance?! And better yet, can’t we do it without all the guilt?! (AMEN!) We can do busy better.
Glynnis points out, “This is for the woman who works too much! The woman who feels guilty when working and guilty when they rest.” Can you relate? Glynnis explains four kinds of “bad” busy:
- Busy without boundaries
- Busy Buddy
- I’m not called to do what I am doing.
But be encouraged, not all busy is BAD. Listen in to learn more and start doing busy better!
“I’m overwhelmed. I just need a break!” I said to my counselor. Minutes later, I left her second story office and hurried the length of the deserted hallway. I glanced at my phone while descending the stairs. My phone was dead, but I knew it was close to 4:00. I had just enough time to get to school and pick up my kids before their practices ended at 4:30. As I took the next step, I missed the stair and tumbled forward. When I came to a stop, I heard a loud “pop.” The pain was unbearable.
Tears came fast and furious and I cried out for help.
No one heard me.
I tried to push myself up to stand, but my left foot refused to bear any weight.
I cried for help again, thinking there must be someone nearby.
Again, no one heard me.
I tried my phone a second time in vain. My husband was in New York on business. Picking up the kids wouldn’t wait. I gritted my teeth and pushed myself up from the base of the stairs. I could stand on my right foot, but my left was completely useless. With great pain, I hopped to the car, frequently banging my left foot against the pavement. I managed to get myself into the car and drive across town to the school, sobbing the entire way.
The “break” I needed
I’d love to tell you my injuries were minimal and I healed quickly, but that’s not what happened. Instead, I got the “break” I needed in the form of broken bones and multiple sprains in my foot and ankle, six months of pain, restrictions, physical therapy, and a complete overhaul of my demanding pace of life.
Before my fall, I was at a breaking-point. Maybe you’ve been there too.
I had taken on too many responsibilities – running a nonprofit, serving as team mom, leading a Bible study, making play costumes, and so much more. I spent the previous year moving at record speed. I like to keep busy, but I was over-committed, under-rested, and probably not the most pleasant person to be around.
We don’t have to live that way.
Count the cost of yes
What I learned through my ordeal was that I’m capable of only so much. I’m learning to live within my limits. That means I only commit to a certain number of activities, projects and responsibilities. When my plate is full, I must eliminate an item before adding another. I guard my time and energy or they’ll be swallowed up by my desire to say “yes” to more than I can sanely accomplish.
If I hadn’t been rushed and feeling overwhelmed, I’m sure I wouldn’t have missed that step. I likely wouldn’t have even been in counselor’s office that day. The cost of over-commitment was high.
One of the things I contemplated during my recovery was that Jesus never rushed. He moved at an intentional pace. His time of ministry on earth was very brief, only three years. If anyone had a reason to pick his pace and do more than humanly possible, it was Jesus. But, he didn’t.
I’m learning to follow his example.
Luke 14:28 reminds us to count the cost, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
When we’re tempted to say “yes” and add one more thing to our busy schedules, pause and acknowledge that “yes” will cost us something. At the very least, it means we have to say “no” to other opportunities.
What will saying “yes” cost you? Will it cost your peace? Dilute your focus?
When we commit to pause and count the cost before taking on another thing, we are empowered to manage the opportunities that come our way. We focus on what we’re meant to do, the things most important to us. We walk in freedom, unhurried and confident.
What are you doing to follow Jesus’ example of walking out your life intentionally and unhurried? How have you learned to live within the limits of your time and energy?
Elizabeth M. Thompson is a writer and speaker. Prayer is her super-power and she loves helping women develop meaningful prayer lives. She and her husband have three children. They live, bike, kayak, and hike along the American River near Sacramento, CA. Stop by her website for a free download of “Jumpstart Your Stalled Prayer Life.”
Kathi and Cheri Gregory, co-author of Overwhelmed, are here for Part 3 of the series, What We’ve Learned Since Releasing Overwhelmed. They discuss how decluttering is ongoing. It isn’t one and done; it is a day in and day out process.
As our recent Spring Fling participants have tackled their clutter, they realized that it wasn’t just a two-week project. It is something you have to keep working at. And each person has their own hurdles to work through. Our hosts discuss what some of the ah-ha moments were for them as well as participants. AS one clears her clutter, what once brought emptiness is now viewed as spaciousness. Kathi and Cheri discuss the discovery of how getting rid of the clutter provides room for new opportunities.
Listen for tips to get the support you need to deal with clutter and being overwhelmed.
Mentioned In the Podcast
Trello – Great for organizing projects and keeping everyone on the team on track.
Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity
Do you ask for what you need or want?
Cheri Gregory, co-author of Overwhelmed, joins Kathi for the second podcast in a series about “What I’ve Learned Since Writing Overwhelmed.”
They have learned a number of things and one thing that Cheri found profound, “Women are bad at articulating what we want or need without feeling guilty.” As women, we are always preventing problems for other people instead of focusing on our own wants, needs, expectations, and communication.
Listen in to learn about their tips for handling our own wants and needs guilt free.
Our Gift to You
Download our guide to creating a personal manifesto. This booklet will help you create your own manifesto so you can begin to live your own values.