Updated: Jan 23, 2020
I love creating to-do lists.
They are so helpful.
I can prioritize, keep track of my accomplishments, and check things off.
Until the list becomes overwhelming.
Then it becomes a problem.
The key is to give yourself a system to identify why your to-do list has become overwhelming. Some simple ways to sort through your to-do list and reduce the overwhelm that I like to use are listed below.
Why is my to-do list so long???
One common issue that occurs with to-do lists is that they grow beyond things you actually need to get done and they begin to include things that you hope to get done. When this happens, your to-do list can start to resemble a wishlist.
You need to ask yourself whether the items you are writing down really need to be done or if they are nice-to-haves. Are you creating more work for yourself that is artificially generated? Are you signing on to take other people's tasks? Often times, a to-do list becomes a place to list all the things you want to get to someday.
These are the things that are on your to-do list that you know you need to get done, but that are not necessarily date-sensitive. You can create a separate to-do list for these items. List the amount of time it will take to complete the task next to it so that when you have a few spare minutes, you can find tasks that you can complete in the allotted time.
Complete Filing 15 minutes
Clean Out Coat Closet 10 minutes
Drop off Dry Cleaning 20 minutes
Pick up Sweatshirt from Restaurant 20 minutes
Use specific symbols to prioritize your tasks and keep track of their statuses. Some of the ones I will use include:
☐ - Not Started
☒ - Completed
⚀ - In Progress
⊟ - Canceled
! - Priority
→ - Moved to another day
You can also divide your tasks into 5 quadrants:
1 - Must Do Today
2 - Should Do Today
3 - Could Do Today
4 - Delegate or Delete
5 - Shift to Tackle List
If you are someone who likes to create a variety of lists for different topics to help you keep on track, you may want to consider using a bullet journal. You can have multiple to-do lists in one place and you can keep track of things based on priority on a daily / weekly / monthly or ongoing basis.
Bullet journals can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how you manage them. If you find that many of the items on your list are wishlist items, you can track them separately from your actual daily to-do list.
If you need a more detailed way of tracking your tasks and managing them, you may want to research bullet journal symbols because they can help you manage your tasks and keep track of the bigger picture.