What does your daily todo list look like?
Do you pour out every single thing you need to get done during the week into a single day’s list? Or maybe it’s the exact opposite and your list has one, maybe two items, because you’re scared to write things down in fear that you won’t be able to check it off at the end of the day.
I myself have been notorious for creating a mile daily long todo list, thinking that I will magically create an extra hour or two in the day or find out I have a clone that will help me achieve the impossible list in a single day. It’s like when you go to a restaurant starving and you order everything that sounds good, convincing yourself and those you’re with that you can totally take it all down. It comes out, you’re surrounded by plates and you instantly ask the waiter for a to-go box, knowing they’d have to roll you out if you ate it all!
Same thing with a mile long daily todo list. When you write it all down, schedule everything out, it totally seems doable, right? Until you actually start to work your way through the list and immediately find out that you were overly ambitious or, as we like to say in our house, in need of an expectations check!
When I crammed ALL the items into a single todo list, on a single day, not only did I not make any headway on a majority of items but it also instantly gave me this feeling of guilt.
I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t focused enough. I wasn’t productive enough. I just wasn’t enough.
The daily todo list that was supposed to be helping me find forward progress was actually stopping me in my tracks, stealing my confidence and preventing me from creating any forward movement. That is the exact opposite of how your daily todo list should be working for you.
We’ve talked about The Goal Funnel to help you break down your big goals and dreams into actionable steps but I think we need to dive deeper. We need to get into the bread and butter of The Goal Funnel where you get your hands dirty on the daily and you start to discover how the small steps truly add up!
On the surface, you might think that your yearly goal page in your Happy Balance Planner is where all the magic is stored but that’s your vision and your big picture. You absolutely need it so you can see where you are headed and what you’re aiming for, but you’re not going to get there overnight or in giant leap.
You can dream all day long but it’s what you do on the daily that paints the overall picture of your vision.
It’s when I started putting our Goal Funnel to use that I gave my daily todo list a makeover and said goodbye to the daily todos where I expected myself to knock out five big items in a single day and I embraced the small tasks. It has not only changed my actual productivity level each day but it’s brightened my mood because I can end each day feeling proud of the work I’ve done today and energized about jumping back in tomorrow.
If you’ve been struggling with how to create daily todos from your big goals, we’ve got some tips to help you get started:
- Think Small! Let go of the idea that on any given day you need to tackle one or all of your big tasks in one full swoop. When you trap yourself into this thinking that you need to be taking giant leaps each and every day, you risk being overwhelmed and burn out faster than you can count to 10. Instead, take each of your goals and think of it like a puzzle: individually they don’t look like much but collectively the puzzle pieces create a beautiful image. When you are missing even a single puzzle piece there is a hole and the overall image is incomplete. That’s exactly how your small, individual tasks add up. By themselves, they don’t seem that significant, but you need each one in order to transform your dream into your reality.
- If You’re Thinking About It…Write It Down: Building off of the idea that no task is too small is this idea that if you’re thinking about something, it should be written down on your todo list or in your notes section of your planner. Sometimes we have a thought and think that it’s not worth writing down because it’s way too simple and surely you can remember it. Warning: those are the exact things that you will forget! Those are the things that need to be written down! As an example, I had some things that I needed to mail last week but was out of stamps. The real task was what I filled the envelopes with and so that made my todo list and I kept a mental note to buy the stamps…for well over a week! It wasn’t until I actually wrote down in my Happy Balance Planner “Buy Stamps” that I actually found myself buying the much needed stamps and completing the bigger todo, which was mailing what was inside the envelopes. Bottomline: there is no task too small or too insignificant to write down.
- What Can You Do RIGHT Now? The moment you start to feel overwhelmed by an item on your monthly or even weekly goal list, ask yourself: What can you do right now? What is the one task that you could do, no matter how small, that would move you forward even just an inch toward your goal? The point is to find action immediately because sometimes that’s all we need to get started. We need the reminder that we are capable of moving forward even on our hardest or biggest goals. Some days you will rock through a todo list that consists of 5 or more items, and other days it’s about showing up and doing what you can, with what you have, in that exact moment. Sometimes you have to step back from looking out at the big picture and instead, you need to look down at your feet and recognize where you are right now so that you can build strength for where you want to go tomorrow.
- Break Down Your Weekly Goals: Your weekly goals are your starting point to direct your focus and energy each week but more than likely, you need to break them down even smaller. For each of your weekly goals, write out all the individual steps that you need to take in order to cross that item off your weekly todo list. Going back to my stamp example, “buy stamps” should have been on my todo list from the get go in order to complete that weekly goal. Once you see all the steps involved with a goal or task, you immediately start to gain control over the when, where and how! All of the steps, needs and requirements are uncovered and it’s completely up to you how you put those pieces back together.
- Tweak Your Todo List Mid-Day: This might not work for everyone, but since I started my new job, it has helped me tremendously. When I started my new job, I kept trying to make my old system work and I would plan out my todo’s for the next day the night before or the morning of. I’d start my day feeling focused and organized for maybe two hours when a few more significant todos were thrown at me, completely wiping out any schedule or intentions I had for my afternoon. I’d end my days feeling disorganized, unproductive and frazzled. That’s when I decided that perhaps a new situation called for a new organizing/planning system. Rather than planning out each day from start to finish the night before, I plan for the morning with some ideas for the afternoon. My mornings are pretty stable so, if there is something that HAS to get done the next day, it’s scheduled for the morning. Usually all curve balls reach me by lunch time, which is when I will go back to my todo list and plan out the rest of my afternoon. Waiting allows me to have a more realistic view on my day and a more realistic idea of what I can truly fit in and accomplish. That small tweak has created a big mind shift in feeling productive even on the most chaotic of days.
The goal of every day todo’s is not to see how far you can leap in a single day but to see how strong of a bridge you can build over time.
Dreams are meant to be big and challenging and if you could accomplish them in a single day, they wouldn’t require the best of you. They wouldn’t require you to build strength, which is what you do with every step you take toward accomplishing them.
If there is just one thing you take away from this, let it be THINK SMALL TO DO BIG THINGS!