Mompreneur Task Maintenance
I’m excited to share a post by Laura Newcomber. Laura is a writer, editor, and educator with multiple years of experience working in the environmental and personal wellness space. Formerly Senior Editor at the health site Greatist, Laura now lives and works in Pennsylvania. Her writing has been published on Washington Post, TIME Healthland, Greatist, DailyBurn, Lifehacker, and Business Insider, among others. She has taught environmental education to students of all ages in both Pennsylvania and Maine, and prioritizes living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. She’s a big proponent of creating self-sustaining communities and accessible healthy food systems that care for both people and the earth. An avid outdoorswoman, she can often be found hiking, kayaking, backpacking, and tending to her garden.
Thanks so much Laura for sharing your insights with us! Read on to become inspired!
The best laid plans can go awry when shifting deadlines, large workloads, and family schedules get in the way of even the best intentions. And while procrastinating may help us feel better right now—Netflix binges certainly beat spreadsheets as a form of entertainment—we pay for it with late nights or missed deadlines.
One of the best ways to ease into productivity and the peace of mind it affords: Make a to-do list. Lists force us to identify concrete, actionable goals and help us remember important information so tasks don’t slip through the cracks.
Here are some Tips to Create and Maintain a To-Do List that actually works for you:
MIT stands for Most Important Tasks. After you’ve created the day’s to-do list, re-read it and note which tasks absolutely must get done that day. Then devote yourself to accomplishing those tasks before anything else. While you may not get to everything on the list, tackling MITs each day will help ensure nothing critical slips through the cracks.
One of my Productivity Practices I adopted from working with the amazing Christine Kane in her Uplevel Your Business coaching program. She introduced the concept of a ‘Sunday Summit’ as a ritual to set your weeks up for success. I adapted the concept and share it with my clients now as a weekly printable: The Sunday Sanity Summit Weekly Planning Tool.
Start with Task(s) You Dread Most
This can be a great way to begin the morning on a productive note and minimize anxiety for the rest of the day. Since we tend to put off the tasks we want to do the least, eliminate wasted time and nervous energy by getting right to it. Not only will you get the dreaded tasks out of the way, but you’ll also give yourself a boost of accomplishment early in the day.
Prepare Before You Start
If you need to create a presentation for the big board meeting, for example, don’t sit down to work until you gather all the necessary materials (fact sheets, data tables, etc.). That way you can really focus until it’s done, instead of getting up to grab a new item every few minutes.
Whenever you commit to doing a task, really commit. Close all internet browsers, silence your phone, and sign out of email and social media accounts. Keep your workspace organized, too—clutter can serve as a distraction. By creating a space that enables you to focus, you can get tasks done quicker and get on with your day.
Some of my Productivity Pro friends have shared with me some great distraction-eliminating apps in the past! Here’s a great list on Kelly Gurnett’s Blog – The Write Life.
Productivity feels great, but it’s important not to obsess about it. Too much productivity can be a bad thing if it prevents us from taking care of ourselves, maintaining healthy relationships, or enjoying proper rest and relaxation. Be sure to schedule small breaks throughout each day to do something you truly enjoy (or do nothing but breathe). And try to unplug completely one day each week in order to recover from a busy schedule and prevent burn out. Ultimately, prioritizing downtime and self-care is one of the best things you can do for your productivity levels—by staying healthy and happy, you can remain productive for years to come.
My son is excellent at this technique. He manages a pretty rigorous schedule for a high school student, and really loves to ‘take breaks’! – In a household full of workaholics, it’s refreshing to see how regular breaks work in his favor.
Start Over After Lunch
The morning didn’t go as planned? It happens to the best of us. Instead of declaring the day a wash, commit to re-starting after lunch. A lot of things can still be accomplished in the afternoon, and doing something sets you up for a less stressful tomorrow.
I LOVE this idea! Fresh starts and do-overs are the only reason I’m still alive!
Create Multiple Lists
Writing down everything you need to get done for the rest of your life on one piece of paper is a quick way to feel overwhelmed—and that’s a surefire way to kill motivation. Instead, break up your lists:
- A master list that outlines everything you want to accomplish down the road (for instance: take a yoga class or remodel the bathroom)
- A weekly project list that details everything you need to do over the course of each week to keep things humming along smoothly
- A daily list that outlines the must-dos for each specific day. Try to limit this list to eight items or fewer to make sure you’re not over-scheduling yourself.
This practice requires you to assign due dates to each task, which ups the chances of completing tasks. Also make sure to schedule a time to tweak these lists on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. While it may seem counterintuitive to spend time planning how to spend your time, categorizing tasks appropriately is a great way to free up mental space and focus your energy where it’s really needed. Aim to review to-do lists in the evening so you can hit the ground running the next day.
I use a three-pronged approach to help me capture and manage all my tasks and projects categorically through Google Drive, Evernote and Asana! I use Evernote and Drive as repositories for gathering data and categorically grouping information, and then set everything up on a timeline in Asana! This allows me to work with my teammates to keep everything straight! I’ve also been impressed with certain paper planners such as PlannerPads that help you ‘trickle-down’ your tasks from large to finite.
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Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks
When crafting to-do lists, get specific. Don’t just write “Take care of finances.” Instead, break it down: “Pay the electric bill. Set up a meeting with a financial accountant to discuss Roth IRA. Tally spending from last month.” Wherever possible, include the information you need to get the task done (your accountant’s phone number, for example). Aim to craft the list so every task requires only one single action. Not only does this help tasks feel more manageable, but it provides a better sense of how much time to allow for each item.
Managing your time is a critical skill that requires a great deal of self-insight and consistent monitoring and redirection. To learn more about what makes you successful with time management – check out the assessment I created – the Time & Space Style Inventory to learn more about yourself and what makes you most productive!
Enlist an App
Put digital tools to work for you by using a time-saving app. There is a huge range of to-do-list-enabling apps, from incredibly detailed schedule managers to location-specific reminder systems. Experiment to find the one(s) that works best for you.
I use a three-pronged approach to help me capture and manage all my tasks and projects categorically through Google Drive, Evernote, and Asana! I use Evernote and Drive as repositories for gathering data and categorically grouping information, and then set everything up on a timeline in Asana! This allows me to work with my teammates to keep everything straight!
Automate A Series of Tasks
Any task that can only be completed through a series of steps qualifies as a “task series” (for instance, packing for a vacation or cooking a weekly dinner). Create action sequences for any tasks you accomplish on a regular basis so you don’t need to re-create the to-do list each time you perform that action. Instead, you can just refer back to that task series whenever you need it. For example, let’s say you want to cook dinner every Sunday. Your task series might look something like this:
- Choose a recipe from [favorite recipe source]
- Check to see if any of the ingredients are already in the pantry or fridge
- Create a shopping list
- Create an equipment list
- Gather together all the necessary equipment and make sure it’s clean and functioning properly
- Go grocery shopping
And so on. Apply this tip to a monthly business presentation or organizing your office. Each time you conduct one of these tasks, simply refer back to the task series. You’ll free up a ton of mental energy that would otherwise have gone into re-creating the task series from scratch.
I use Google Calendar to manage recurring tasks and build them directly into my schedule during my admin days. I also typically start projects in Asana with a quick description, and overall workflow to remind all of us how to do less-frequently recurring tasks!
Make it Routine
Some tasks—such as making the kids’ lunches or responding to emails—need to happen every day. Put them on autopilot by scheduling them for the same time each day. That way you won’t lose any mental effort to figuring out how to squeeze them in, which frees up your brain to focus on those MITs.
As this list proves, there are many steps you can take to make a to-do list feel less daunting. But at the end of the day, all the tricks in the world can’t compete with this simple step: Just get started. Put in the legwork to create a tailored, effective task list as outlined above—and then get to work. You can do it.
Your Sanity Assignment This Week
- Is your to-do list out of hand?
- Which of these tips will you apply this week to help you manage it all?
Please share your comments and thoughts by scrolling to the comments below!
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