What To Do When Your To Do's Rule Your Life


To do lists and I had such a shitty relationship - we were total frenemies.  I loved to write them but hated to action them.  My list was a beast - a monster lineup of items requiring action that often took on a life of its own.  There were ridiculous things on my to do agenda such as 'write my to do list', not to mention the hours I spent organising and re-organising my list into something that looked manageable.

Yep it's the beautiful art of busyness.   When you spend sun up until sun down zipping around like a blue arsed fly only to sit on the couch at end of the day exhausted but with little to no sense of actual winning at lifeness.  Let me just state for the record that busyness and productivity are not the same things.

My daily measure of success was 'how many things have I marked off today?'.  My answer was always 'not enough'Read; God you're useless, you can do better than that.   Sometimes I add stuff to my list that I've already done (like shower) just so that I can cross it off.  Nothing thrills me more than seeing crosses through my ever-growing list of things to do. 

My fucking to do list.

As a new mama, my to do list was the only thing that kept me going some days.  'I'm going to use all this time at home to get long outstanding projects done like sorting out my photos'. HA. So many lols over that little statement.  It went something more like this;  'fuck you digital photos - may you forever rest in the graveyard that is my iPhoto's app.  Here lies a picture of that pecan pie I ate in Las Vegas 5 years ago'.

My list started feeling like an angry boss shouting at me to do more, be more, achieve more.

It never got smaller.  It made me tired just looking at it.  Oh fuck, I've got 17 things I need to do today.  Yoga. Meditation. Journaling. Clear Inbox. Pay bills. Meal Prep - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Walk.  Shower.  Don't forget to shower.  Ring Mum. I didn't do that today I'll make sure I definitely do it tomorrow. 

Contemporary women revere their lists like Moses loved his stone tablets. They are directions to the Promised Land. The thrill of crossing something off: check, check, and check.
— Danielle LaPorte, White Hot Truth

Tools to keep life organised, unstressed and in control!

1. Brain Dump

This is a powerful tool for clearing the mental clutter in my mind. Keeping your head full of pending to do's keeps you distracted, disengaged and stressed.  Brain dumping is literally a method where you extract every little thing in your brain onto a visual platform.

Step 1 - Grab some pen and paper (the first time you might fill up 4-5 pages and it will take about 30-40 minutes).  Write down every single thought that pops into your mind, don't worry about order.  It might be books you want to read.  Things you need to do.  Emails to follow up.

Step 2 - Once you are happy that your mind is empty then you can process the brain dump.  Cross off things that aren't important or don't need any further action.  The rest you can sort out into two categories; To Do and Projects.

To Do's are short-term tasks that are stand-alone and can be completed quickly.  These can be further sorted by urgent and later.

Projects are long-term tasks that can be grouped together under a common category e.g. clean deck, paint walls and buy washing machine might come under "renovations". Create a will, refinance your mortgage, consolidate your super might come under "security" or "finances".

2. Digitise Your Lists

The concept of Workflowy is ridiculously simple; a minimalistic platform in which to track your to do's and projects.  I used the demo list to help set up the structure for my own list.  It even has an app so you can access and edit your list from your phone.

3. Bullet Journal

For an old-fashioned lover of notebooks, pens and paper my Bullet Journal (or BuJo for short) is life.  The BuJo is a customisable productivity notebook; it can be your to-do list,  notebook, diary, project list, habit tracker, gratitude journal - whatever you want - the sky is the limit.  

You can google Bullet Journal to get ideas about how you can customise your journal.  Trust me it looks like hard work but it's NOT.  My BuJo is not as fancy as some that I've seen - I prefer function over form.  I personally use the Leuchtturm 1917 Bullet Journal notebook but you can use any dot grid or square notebook you want - click here for recommendations. 

4. Scheduling

The concept of scheduling is to block out time in your day to work on a particular task, diarise it and then commit to that time frame.  If you give yourself one hour to clean your house, that's all you've got.  Schedule it in.  Stick to it.  If you run out of time - tough! 

Your calendar acts as a filter against distractions and leaves little room for procrastination.  It also forces you to intentionally plan out how you want to spend the time in your day. 

Think of it like being at work.  At work, there are things we don't want to do but we have to do them in order to stay on top of our workload and to complete projects.  Home life should be no different.  Now I'm not suggesting you split your day into 100 blocks of overwhelming bullshit.  But I am suggesting your split your blocks into manageable chunks.  45 minutes for your morning routine.  1 hour for lunch including meal prep.  1.5 hours for Netflix.  Got it?

I only use google calendars and sync this to my iCal so I can easily access it on my phone and laptop.  Remember if you don't use your calendar it's totally useless.  I allocate half an hour at the start of each day and end of each day to brain dump, organise and schedule my action items.

Let your brain do what it does best; thinking not remembering.
— Monique Barry

Once you've had a chance to read, I'd love to know:

In what ways are you keeping yourself in a state of busyness?  Share one way you can stay organised, productive and in control today!

Leave a comment below and let me know. Remember, share as much detail as possible in your reply.  I want to create a space where people can come here each week for insight and inspiration, and your story may help someone else have a meaningful breakthrough.

If you have friends, family or colleagues who are overwhelmed by their "busyness", share this post. The world needs more happy, engaged and passionate peeps!