Let’s take a few minutes to talk about “to-do” lists, “to-don’t” lists, and why we sometimes get caught up in busy, rather than productive. Have you ever made a “to-do” list and then added something you have already completed so that you can check it off? If so, this is for you, and you are not alone. We like to feel like we are accomplishing things and checking something off a “to-do” list does just this.
The problem with “to-do” lists is that they can get filled up with small tasks that cause us to feel busy, but that don’t really result in anything meaningful getting done. They can contain small, non-urgent tasks that prevent us from accomplishing the tasks that make the biggest difference. The reason so many of us fall into the never-ending “to-do” list trap is that given the choice, we almost always want to choose the easy things. Our brains are wired to keep us comfortable and safe, and taking on something big and challenges does not compute in our brains as comfortable or safe.
The bigger, more challenging, or more uncomfortable things you may need to do like finish a presentation, complete your homework, declutter your closets, have a difficult conversation with a family member, exercise daily, make a plan to pay off debt and stick with it, meal prep your food so you don’t order out all week, create your website to start your own business, or create and follow a consistent marketing strategy can keep getting pushed to another day when you keep filling your “to-do” lists with the quick, easy to check off items. One way of managing this is to first create a “to-don’t” list. This is a list of items you won’t do in a day, or week, that will free you up to work on the things that matter the most, and that will move the needle forward for you.
For example, a “to-don’t” list may have items on it like:
These are just examples of what may go on your “to-don’t” list. The key is that they should all be things that you know get in the way of you achieving your most important goals. They usually feel better and easier than the bigger thing you are trying to work on which is why your brain encourages you to do them first, leaving little to no time to work on the more meaningful, but also more challenging or uncomfortable things, that will get you the most results in either your personal or professional life, or both.
One way to combat your inclination to avoid the big things because they feel harder is to take your bigger goals and break them down into small, easier to achieve tasks. Start with the end result and then work your way backwards asking yourself what you need to do each month, week, and day to achieve your goal. Make those daily or weekly tasks the first items on your “to-do” list and get them out of the way first. Not only will this help you progress towards your goal, it will also result in you feeling good because you will have accomplished something important first thing in the day. Even if the task for the day or week does not feel important in and of itself, remind yourself of why it is important in moving you towards your bigger goal.
Take a few moments each day to reflect if you did the task or tasks that you said were most important in helping you achieve your ultimate goal(s). If not, assess what got in the way. Be honest about this because it is the only way you will be able to make a change. Ask yourself if you procrastinated, if you chose the easy things over the important things, if your mindset is holding you back because you don’t really believe you are capable or worthy of achieving your bigger goal, or if you engaged in things on your “to-don’t” list. Once you know what happened, you can make adjustment to get yourself back on track. Every single day is an opportunity to reset, refocus, and remember what you need to do to achieve your bigger, more challenging goals.
As a reminder, it is human nature for us to want to do the easy things first. It is human nature for us to want to stay comfortable and play it safe. If you find that you tend to do this, you are human! However, if you take the opportunity to push yourself and do the things that will help you achieve your biggest goals, you will get to check off the results your created, and that will feel ten times better than checking off an easy item on a “to-do” list. You’ve got this!
Live your best boss lady life.
Karen Vincent Solutions
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