The Overwhelming To-Do List

Sunday is usually an overwhelming day for me. I have lots of stuff I want to get done, and zero motivation to do it. I can typically write it off as a day of rest, and, now that NFL is on, spend the day in front of the TV. Today, however, I felt an overwhelming anxiety to get a lot of stuff done. One of those things was to write a new blog post. I have a few topics in the queue, but felt it appropriate to put my to-do list on figurative paper and show you how I (ideally) manage it.

This isn’t some amazing new technique for managing one’s to-do list, so don’t think I’ve got some magical answer. This was a method I learned a long time ago. In fact I want to say I learned it from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I could be wrong.  Regardless, I find it helpful to alleviate stress of getting things done.

Step One: List everything I want to get done. This is the mental expulsion of everything I feel I need to get done.  No particular order here, just getting things down.

-Mow the lawn

-Clean the house

-Finish my secret project (more on this later)

-Clean the garage from my project

-Study for my BCPS exam

-Write something for my blog

-Call my parents

-Watch church (my church is being built, so I watch online in the mean time)

-Play Minecraft on Xbox with the kids

-Shower (yes I have to write this down on a Sunday)

-Read a book

-Watch NFL

-Take stuff to Goodwill

-Figure out a sewing room for my wife

-Find missing LEGO parts for the set wife and son are building

I have more, but I’ll stop there for purposes of the blog, and your sanity.

Step Two: Sort them by priority

At this point, I need to put them in order.  I use the three I’s for priority: Itinerary (do they have to be done today?).  Importance (what do they mean to me?). Impact (what do they mean to others?).  Here’s the listed sorted and numbered:

  1. Watch Church
  2. Call my Parents (freakishly, the phone rang as I typed this to the list and it was my parents, so I can cross this out)
  3. Clean the garage (I want my wife to be able to park the van inside again)
  4. Play Minecraft with the kids
  5. Write a blog post
  6. Mow the lawn

I’m stopping with priority ranking there.

Step Three: Ignore everything not in the top 5

I numbered to 6 because #2 accomplished itself and #6 might not happen because it’s been raining.  I figured with these two taken care of, the remaining four can be accomplished.  I didn’t prioritize the remaining because they’re bonus items.  If I get them done great; if not, then that’s fine too.  They aren’t critically important at this point, and, therefore, I don’t have to do them.  Tomorrow, I’ll rewrite the list and those items might still be on it.  If they’re more important tomorrow, then they’ll move up the list.  If they’re not more important, then I shouldn’t feel guilty for not doing them.

Step Four: Accomplish the top 5

Logical right?  “Do first things first,” is the saying.

Step Five: Do something I want to do

I thought about putting step 6 in this spot.  The efficient thing is to do step six before I do step five, and you can change it if you want.  The reason I put “Do something I want to do” here is because having fun is important to one’s mental health.  My life can’t just be a checklist of necessary tasks.   Life is supposed to be enjoyed.  There’s plenty of time to have fun in life.  I’m scheduling it in my life after my top 5, so I remember it’s always important.

Step Six: Plan for the future

This doesn’t have to be complicated, and can be a lot of fun.  I treat this like my dreaming time.  It can be as simple as planning out a vacation, or next weekend’s activities.  It can be as complicated as mapping out a process for work.  This is important time to develop things that aren’t urgent.  Ideally, you’ll spend more time here than you do in your top 5.   Top 5 is stuff you have to do.  This time is for things that aren’t urgent.


It seems like I should have seven steps (it’s my favorite number), but I only have six.  That’s going to have to work for now.  I’m applying this to a Sunday, but I try to use it most days.  I’m always working to apply it more efficiently.  On work days, I use it in duplicity.  I have a six steps for work, and a six steps for not work.  I find this really helpful for getting things accomplished in the day, particularly at the end of the day when you don’t want to feel guilty about leaving work on time.

I encourage you to try the same steps in your day to day life.  I guarantee as you apply this you’ll be more productive, and you’ll relieve yourself of guilt from not getting things done.



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