The key to true productivity is conquering your to do's, so here's a free printable to do list to help you get it all done. Well what's realistic anyway!
Today's mission is to begin getting in the habit of making a realistic daily to do list, to keep you on task during the day and make sure you're getting your priorities done, for home and work, personal and professional.
This mission is designed to be done while we work on the Create A Morning & Evening Routine Challenge here on the site, which is part of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge. That's because along with routine tasks, we all have other tasks that need to get done as part of life that we've got to track and make sure get accomplished.
Today's decluttering mission is also not exactly about decluttering, although it is a life skill necessary to getting into the decluttering habit, which is what these Declutter 365 Missions are all about.
Although getting your home clutter free itself is a big task, what gets it done are the cumulative effects of many smaller tasks. That means the real results lie in your day to day actions.
That's true, of course, of both decluttering and just about any other big project you may undertake, such as home organization, weight loss, fitness, or even getting good grades in school. Big outcomes rest on lots of small actions.
So it's important to get in the habit of working on the things that are important to you daily, such as in this case decluttering for 15 minutes a day.
To remind ourselves of what we've got to do, we often make to do lists. But if you're anything like me your to do list can be long, unwieldy, you can't always find it, there might be a couple of them going at once, and/or you've written something on it like "declutter my house today." Ha! Like that's going to happen in one day. Not for many of us!
Making and working from a to do list, daily, is something I highly recommend. It can keep you focused on your priorities and goals that you set for yourself, and over time it will allow you to actually begin to accomplish exactly the things you want to accomplish.
But to do lists only work if they're realistic. Otherwise they can be overwhelming and cause us to get discouraged and be counterproductive.
Each evening I suggest getting in the habit of making your to do list for the next day (which is why I've included this as a suggested task when planning out your evening routine). It helps you get what you need to accomplish tomorrow out of your brain so you can relax and rest for a while before you begin again the next day.
Making it the night before also allows you to think and plan, as opposed to reacting instinctively to the day's events and then spinning your wheels by not actually getting many useful things done.
I used the example above of a project, "declutter your house." That is not something that I could get done in one day, how about you?
You see that written on your to do list and you ignore it, write it over and over on each day's new list, and/or give up on that project because it seems unattainable.
However, you break it down into more manageable parts and tasks, like go through and declutter one drawer of your dresser today, and that doesn't seem too bad. Hmm, I could do that and then I get to check it off my list! Sweet!
If you're like me, I LOVE checking things off my list and so I actually enjoy breaking projects down because it eventually means more check marks. ;) (Oh, and I have been known to write down tasks after I've done them, just to get the satsifaction of crossing them out. What about you?)
(And of course, for the decluttering project, I've actually already broken the project down into 15 minute missions for you, so reference your Declutter Calendar each day for your task!)
That being said, just because you should break your projects down into more manageable chunks doesn't mean that you should write 25, by themselves, managable tasks on your to do list for that day.
Add all of those tasks together and they aren't so realistic and managable anymore. You won't have time to do them all and that just leads to a feeling of failure.
I'm really bad about making my lists too long, so believe me, I often need to remind myself to practice what I preach, but I've found that when I do make a shorter list I am more likely to actually accomplish the things I have written down then if I write a longer list.
I've provided a free printable to do list template below, and it has 10 lines. That is the MAXIMUM number of things I think you should have on your daily list. Honestly, it would be better if you had five or less.
I've been asked to clarify how to make a short to do list like this when you've got so many little things that need to be accomplished each day. My answer is that I believe in the power of routines, and of what is called habit stacking, where you combined several actions together. So, for example, instead of writing on your to do list everyday, take shower, make bed, and get kids ready for school, you could instead have on your to do list that you'll do your morning routine, which would have these three tasks on them, plus a couple more. When you finished your morning routine for the day, you accomplished that item from your list! It keeps the list realistic without sacrificing that there are daily chores to do everyday you need to get done.
You can get a free printable morning routine chart here on the site which can help you create your morning routine, by the way!
After you've written your approximately five manageable tasks for the day down on your to do list it's time to prioritize them.
You can prioroitize them by numbering them, or starring for example, three tasks, that need to be accomplished first.
On a good day you should be able to finish all of the things written on your to do list without exhausting yourself. Otherwise it isn't realistic.
But even with a realistic list we all know that sometimes life happens. There are emergencies and distractions, and some things end up taking us longer than we anticipated for reasons outside of our control.
So in addition to being realistic when making your list, you should be realistic when working down your list. Get the things done that have to get done first, so that if the other stuff didn't happen it won't cause you undue stress.
It's easy to start with the easiest task, but unless that is also the most important task, that isn't the order you should go in.
Instead do the most important tasks first.
In addition, there are certain tasks we know we just need to do, but uggghhh, for whatever reason we do not want to. We end up putting those off. A book I really enjoy, from Brian Tracy, calls those types of tasks our frogs.
It comes from the Mark Twain quote:
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
In the book Eat That Frog! Tracy explains how these tasks we dread suck at our energy until we get them accomplished. Once we've done them then our day just runs smoother without that task hanging over our head and we're free to just get more done.
So in addition to prioritizing, I suggest you eat that frog, and just do it and then enjoy the rest of your day!
Finally, to do lists won't do you any good if you can't find and reference them often during the day. So make one list, not just jotting things down on scraps of paper, and then place it somewhere you can look at it often.
Then, all day, you'll be able to track your progress and also re-focus yourself if you get off track.
Below is a free printable I've created that you can use for your to do list, if you'd like.
To get this list either just click on the image of the printable or on the link below which says "click here for your free printable" and it will open for you into a new window as a PDF.
Click here for your free printable
(opens in new window as PDF)
I hope this article has inspired you to organize your home and life.
When you begin to declutter and organize the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.
I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.
Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!
Here are additional free forms and templates on the site you may enjoy:
Daily Agenda & Goal Tracker
Morning Routine Chart
Evening Routine Chart
In addition, working through your to do list is part of time management. Here's a list of 5 tips for time management for parents, or really just about anyone, that can help them with their everyday life.
I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!