As a committed volunteer, a responsible employee and a family organizer, I am slightly embarrassed to admit this – but I often need deadlines to help me achieve my goals – especially my volunteer jobs. And, I am not alone.
Life is busy for everyone. Single or Married. With children or childless. Self-Employed or Under Contract. Employed or Retired. People manage to fill their days and to-do items often sit on a list for months until a hard deadline is set. Of course, if you are one of the remarkable people that always finish their to-do list before going home for the day – you can check reading this article off your list and move on to whatever is next.
For everyone else it is time to consider how to check more items off of the list without losing any more sleep. Here are a few suggestions for your to-do list:
As soon as something comes in – determine its urgency, file it accordingly and perhaps most importantly, set aside time for the medium and low priority items.
The prioritization step is a tried and true organizational strategy but many people just never get to those last items. Inevitably, you run into someone who is involved in a project which is on your list that and you say something like, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to do _____ forever.” You mean it, but you never get around to it. Now, what if you set aside an hour a week for the things that you want to get done but just never get around to doing. An hour goes a long way towards starting and finishing a project.
Accomplishment feels good. Squeeze some of the quick projects into your schedule today.
Let’s say your to-do list includes calling back 5 people. You know 2 of them will be quick calls and 3 may take more time. Take the time to call 3 people today – including the 2 quick ones. You will feel like you completed more than half your calls and that will make your list much shorter (and less overwhelming) the next time you look at it. Yes, it’s playing tricks with your self but, fortunately, most of us are good at fooling ourselves.
Make a conscious decision when to procrastinate.
Here’s an example. I work part-time and this afternoon I estimate I have 3 hours of work to complete. I have a babysitter for 4 hours and I hope to use the last hour for a bicycle ride. It shouldn’t be a problem, but somehow, often it is. I get on my computer to do some writing but first, I read the New York Times, check my email, link through to a couple of websites that will only take me a minute or two (in theory) and all of a sudden 45 minutes have gone by. Well, there goes the time slot I had set aside for the bicycle ride. But what if, instead, I say to myself – you have five minutes to scan the paper and 5 minutes to check email. Anything else will have to wait until the kids go to bed or another time when I have more freedom. In other words – think of all of the things you would prefer to be doing with your free time. If you want to check email, check it. But don’t get lost in the sea of procrastination when it is not your intention.
Use the time you have.
If you only have 15 minutes, use it. Don’t use excuses for all of the things on your list that will take an hour. If your list includes, “Read through donor list and reply to executive director with the contacts you know,” it will take more than fifteen minutes. But if you wait until you have a dedicated hour, you may have missed many golden opportunities to connect with those potential donors.
Just move forward. Standing still only lengthens your list. And the longer it is, the harder it is to achieve.