Feel Productive with a To-Do List

Hi, my name is Victoria and I get anxiety sometimes. A LOT less than I used to, but that is beside the point. Anxiety is terrible, it sucks and can range from mild to debilitating. Some days are better than others, but we can all benefit from knowing how to tackle your day and to-do list without freaking out. 

Ever get to work/school/home and try to start your day and you can't? You think of everything you're supposed to do and need to do and how long all those things will take and how soon they all have to get done....and here comes the anxiety. I get that. I do. In fact it happens to me at least once a week. I've learned a few tricks that help me keep my anxiety in check when I have a lot to do, or just FEEL like I have a lot to do. It's nothing too crazy or complicated and can be easily customized. 

A TO-DO list. 

WAIT! Before you shake your head and stop reading because you're thinking "A stupid list? That isn't going to work!"  Hear me out, give it a shot. 

Yes. A simple to-do list...with enhancements! You don't have to buy anything special, you aren't supporting a Kickstarter or buying into a subscription service. It's a list, that you make. All you need is a sheet of paper, and 2 colors of pens. (the 2 different colors are optional, but you'll see why I like them). If you do want to get fancy...buy a fun notepad! 

I have multiple to-do lists in my life. Work, home, blog, personal etc. So lets get started here with tip #1

1) Keep your lists separate. 

Don't keep 1 massive list for anything and everything you have on your plate. Break them up. Keep your work and your personal separate. Keep your personal "fun" list and your personal "adulting" list separate. If you aren't constantly looking at work sh*t at home, it will be easier to decompress and relax.  You'll feel more productive in each sphere of your life and less overwhelmed in general. 

2) Start your day by starting your list; write the date on the top of the list and know that your list will change throughout the day. Also keep in mind that your list doesn't need to be completed by the end of the day. It is OK to leave things for tomorrow. This next part is key: ONLY PUT THINGS ON THE LIST THAT YOU THINK CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED IN 1-3 DAYS.

At work, I start my day by going through all my emails. Before I answer anything, I make my to-do list. Sometimes that means carrying over things from yesterdays list and thats ok! The 1-3 days rule is crucial.   Break up large projects into smaller chunks. You can't put: "Build a Fence" and expect it to be done that day. Try putting: "measure the yard" or "plan amount of lumber needed", instead. If you put huge projects on there, you will freak. yourself. out.

Keep a separate master project checklist if it is a huge one. If the project isn't something that you can easily plan out what you're working on, just put "Continue blah blah Project" it's much more friendly sounding than just the projects name.  It lets your mind know that you aren't starting from scratch, nor do you intend to finish today. 

3) Know who is the work is for.

If things you need to complete were requested by someone else, or you need someone's help/approval to complete it, write their name next to the action point.  For example: If my project at work was requested by a coworker, I write their name next to it. So I know who the project is for, who is holding me accountable and who I can go to to ask for help, clarification or to give updates too. 

4) Label things as "In Progress" once you've started them.

If you've started something, but can't finish it at the moment, write "IP" for "in progress" (or whatever else makes sense to you) next to it. I also like to write "emailed" if the project/action item is something like "Get facts about blah blah blah for re-cap" and I haven't heard back. That way, I know I can ignore that task until I get the info I need.

This is where the 2nd pen color comes in! With one quick glance I can see what I've started, whats done, and what is still waiting. 

5) Add, and then immediately cross things off your list. 

This is my special trick to make me feel good at the end of the day...

If something comes up and you complete it right away, like someone requests an update, or anything that you can do in under 5 minutes....write that down on your list...and then IMMEDIATELY cross it off. It may seem silly or inconsequential, but if you are stressed and have a lot on your plate, looking at a list with a bunch of things crossed off, even if they were easy tasks, makes you feel so accomplished! I find that it greatly reduces my stress and increases my positive feelings about myself.  

6) Prep the next days list.

At the end of the day, look at what didn't get done and move it to the next days list. You'll have a better idea of what your next day will look like, no surprises!  Include your side notes like  "emailed", "waiting", "IP". Remember, if a task turns out to need more than 3 days to complete, or you are putting it on hold indefinitely, take it off your daily to-do list and create a separate, more long term list.

Play around with your formatting and wording with your lists. What makes the most sense to you? What do you find helps you?