Stay on Top of Your To Do List

Here it is! My pile of notebooks - really cute notebooks that I've picked up at Hobby Lobby when I feel like starting fresh. This happens about 4 times a year for me. I get a cute notebook and list out my 'To Do' list and my goals in my most perfect handwriting {for some reason it seems so much easier to accomplish in a cute notebook over some list tucked away in your phone somewhere}.

Black, Pink, Gold Notebook

However, about a month in I have things marked out and my handwriting goes down hill due to the constant rush I'm always in. The words 'get done by September' are crossed off and replaced with 'by November' and the 'Take the month of November and December off' is replaced with 'maybe next year.' Can anyone else relate?

I'm always telling my husband that next month it'll be slower and I'll get caught up. I even went back to do a happy dance in front of my husband last night as he was studying for his finals to tell him that it had finally happened: I was one session away from finishing all my edits for the year. I WAS CAUGHT UP! I did it! Success! 

Before bed, I made a 'To Do' list. I like doing it before bed for each new day because if I make it earlier in the day things are more likely to change before morning. Anyway, I made my 'To Do' list last night and since I was all caught up on work I could add things to the list like clean my house, exercise, call my family, make breakfast for my husband, and send out Christmas cards - for myself!!! I easily fell asleep because I didn't have work running through my mind.

Then morning rolled around and before I could wipe the sleep from my eyes I noticed I had 3 missed text messages, 5 client emails, and a facebook message...all work related. I opened all of the messages before I glanced at my day's 'To Do' list that I had made the night before and then it happened: I became frantic, overwhelmed, emotional, and wanted to go back to bed. I showered, had my cup of coffee, and sat down to read my Bible, but was too distracted to understand anything that I read due to all the texts, emails, and messages I had rolling around in my head. As my Bible laid open, more text messages began to roll in and I purposely left them unchecked so I didn't forget to go back and respond before the end of the day. And yes, those unchecked texts will be added to my new 'To Do' list and my anxiety for the day.  My original 'To Do' list will just have to wait until tomorrow.

My husband walked in from class around 11:30am and there I sat in my same usual spot working away. I know he didn't think these things, but I felt like a failure. I had just shared with him less than 24 hours earlier that I was caught up; but there I was again back on the couch typing away at my computer. I didn't need to defend what I was doing sitting in front of my computer again because I know his mind didn't even go there. He knows I'm running a business, but I wanted to explain because I felt lazy. I wanted to so badly explain that the reason the house was still a mess, dishes were still in the sink from last night, and that I hadn't bothered with doing my hair or makeup because I woke up to a bunch of emails that were urgent and they had to get taken care of right away, but THEN I'd be all caught up and could do today's 'To Do' list tomorrow... maybe? I didn't explain, he didn't ask, but that's just how I was feeling. I was also feeling so caught up last week that I actually planned a girls' day with one of my best friends on Friday. But after feeling a day, maybe two, behind now, I sent her a text saying that I may need to postpone our girls' day. I was feeling like a lazy wife, unreliable friend, business obsessed feminist, and not to mention unattractive in my sweatpants, hair that was still wet and unbrushed, and no makeup on.

Truthfully, who else feels like an unfinished 'To Do' list is evidence that you're lazy and you're a failure? Even if other things come up and you really did spend your entire day hustling. Who else feels the need to list all the things that came up in their day to those around them to feel justified in not completing that days 'To Do' list? Who also knows that when you feel like a failure it leads to depression? I can't how many people I've met who take something to treat depression. I'm not personally taking anything, but I can certainly see why people are taking medication to treat it. We live in a world where things are fast paced and where it seems impossible to ever catch up and live more simply.

Are we to blame? I'm not saying we are truly lazy, but can we really blame our boss, clients, job, family, or our kids?  Maybe it's not that life or everyone else is too demanding, but maybe we could admit that we are too undisciplined, too afraid to ask for help, or struggle with saying no. Since this story is not a first for me, and it's something I've been struggling with over the last year, I've started to implement things that I hope will help and I'm going to share them below for all of you.

  1. AIRPLANE MODE THAT BEAST. Before bed turn your phone to airplane mode and don't switch it off until you've had a chance to wake up feeling good about the day. Everyone can wait for you to wake up, have your coffee, shower, look at your 'To Do' list, and read your bible or have a quiet time before all the noise of the world starts creeping in. Everyone can wait for you to do those things, and they would probably even tell you to do that if they could. Honestly, they are probably just reaching out because that's when they have the time or they want to do it before they forget (same reasons I do it and I'm hardly ever in a hurry for a response - and if I am, I'll call).
  2. OUTSOURCE. Take the common things that keep transferring to your new 'To Do' list because you can't seem to get them done and outsource them. Yes. Pay money,and outsource them. One thing on my list that never seems to get accomplished is cleaning. So we hired a cleaning company that they'll be here tomorrow (YAY)! No extra money you say? Give up your daily lattes. It's worth it. The company we use charges $32 an hour, and I know I waste that much money on other things that I could give up. I've also hired my assistant to help me edit back in October, and I hired my sister-in-law to start doing admin stuff for me.
  3. N.O. - do I need to say more? Check your calendar and if you don't have the availability, say NO! Yes, even if it's your best friend. There are ways of saying no that are firm, yet kind! Also, remember to offer solutions. You could refer them to someone else or you could even say not today and give them a timeline for when you can. Example: I'd love to do that for you and have it ready for you by next Friday. If they have an urgent request that can't wait a week or two then hopefully you can refer them to someone that is able to help them sooner. Don't be a jerk and be genuine with a desire to help while knowing your personal limits so you don't end up feeling like a failure.
  4. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS. I recently published a blog on my Business Changes coming in 2017. This is a good way to stay consistent with all of your clients, friends, or family. Last year I tried to do this, but I didn't publish my changes anywhere. What happened was I'd have a friend ask me to do something for them so I'd say yes, but then I'd feel bad saying no to someone else that had the same request, and I quickly became overly busy I. I was horrible at sticking to my price changes and availability last year.  If you publish new prices, schedules, availability,  or priorities it'll help you stay consistent in your promise to yourself and to others. You can always refer people back to that publication, email, or however you choose to notify people.
  5. ADD A LITTLE EXTRA. When you make out your daily 'To Do' list turn that 30 minute task into a 45 or 60 minute task. This will allow you some margin. If you're in the middle of that 30 minute task and a text comes in or your husband asks you to run to the bank, you'll have a little extra wiggle room so you won't feel frantic when you get off schedule.
  6. PRIORITIZE YOUR EMAILS AND TEXT. Honestly, if you're running a business or if you're someone's accountability partner or mentor then there are times you need to get back to people ASAP. I've had those types of emails and texts, but I've also had the kind that are asking about a non-business related event happening 3 weeks away and those types of emails or texts can wait until a designated time that you've chosen to respond - maybe at the end of your work day or beginning of your work day the next morning.

I'll be sure to report back to you on how these changes and tips work for me. Most of them I've only been implementing for a month or so, but I truly believe that with these changes I'll feel like less of a failure in 2017.