We all know what it’s like having too many balls to juggle. It’d be helpful sometimes to be able to clone ourselves so we could handle everything life throws our way; but until the brainiacs of the world figure that one out, we’re stuck trying to cram a heck of a lot of “stuff” into an itty bitty 24-hour window.
And that’s if we figure out a way to survive without sleep.
I’m guilty of being the person with the to-do list as long as my leg, the one where I keep adding new things just so I can cross them off. (Tell me I’m not the only one who does that?) And meanwhile, the same old stuff never gets done. Instead it’s transferred from one to-do list to the next, and the next – a paper trail of procrastination.
Then there’s the list that never makes it down on paper at all. You know the one…
The important things that occur to you at odd and inconvenient moments.
The tasks that swirl around your head at night when you’re trying to go to sleep.
Things you KNOW you’re not going to get to in the next 24 hours – perhaps not even in the next week.
So instead of writing them down (because that makes them real, and you just don’t have time for that right now for goodness’ sake!) – you file them away in your brain for later, adding to the stress and overwhelm inside your own head, and creating the very real possibility that you will forget the task altogether.
One simple strategy has helped me out in this area more than anything else I’ve ever tried.
It’s the concept of the Master List.
Here’s how the Master List works:
1. Write it all out.
At the start of every month, sit down and write out a Master List of ALL the tasks you want to get done that month.
The point is to get EVERYTHING down on paper. Big things, small things, all those little niggling tasks that have been bugging you. Once it’s all down, you’ll have such a sense of relief to finally have it out of your head. Instead of feeling helpless and overwhelmed, you’ll start to feel clear and in control.
Now, listen up: the beauty of the Monthly Master List is that you don’t have to get to all these things at once.
You don’t even have to get to them this week, or the next.
But they’re not going to be forgotten, because they’re on the Master List. Exhale!
2. Break it down.
It’s extremely helpful to break your tasks into categories. I use four categories every month. Mine are currently “Blogging”, “Home Projects”, “Decorating clients”, and “General”. If you have a specific large project to handle that month, give that its own category. You might have categories for home, work, kids, study, church… whatever makes sense for you.
3. Plan Weekly Tasks
Now, simply refer back to this list at the start of every week. I keep a log of weekly tasks that I pull directly from my Master List. Each week, I take a look at what still needs doing, and choose which tasks I’m going to tackle that week.
4. Take action on your Daily Tasks.
The weekly tasks are then broken down into a daily to-do list. This is the list I take action on.
Are you getting the beauty of this yet? Using this strategy keeps my to-do list short and manageable, and yet I don’t need to worry that anything will be missed or forgotten.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at a jumbled-up list of fifty different things that need doing, in no particular order of importance, I feel like burying my head in the garden.
Give me ten things to tick off in a single day, however, and I’m all over it like a fat kid on a cupcake. That is TOTALLY do-able.
So guess what? Stuff gets done.
This little trick works brilliantly for all those things you’ve been putting off forever. Say, for instance, you really need to clean out the shed. The thought’s been harassing you for weeks. But it’s not like it’s screamingly urgent, so it just keeps on getting pushed back, and you feel more and more guilty every time you think of it.
What if instead you wrote down “Clean out the shed” on the Master List? Now, each week when you plan your tasks, you’ll see that the shed needs doing sometime this month. You might put it off for the first couple of weeks. That’s totally fine. But as more items are gradually ticked off, you’ll know it’ll soon be time to tackle the leftovers of the list. Week Four, you open your diary and see “Clean out the Shed” staring you down from your Master List. Right – last chance to get ‘er done. So you look at your weekly schedule and see that you have a few hours free on Saturday morning, and you slot it in.
You rope the kids in to help, spend three or four sweaty hours tackling the cobwebby gardening supplies and pool toys, then have a shower and kick back on the porch, aglow with a feeling of accomplishment.
Task complete. It’s an empowering and addictive feeling.
This system has worked so well for me. The only problem I had with it was finding the right planner to support what I was trying to do. I’m a paper planner gal, and I wanted a planner that would enable me to drill down from my Monthly Master List all the way through to a daily to-do list and time-blocked schedule. So, as most of you know, I ended up making my own. I created the Dreams by Design printable planner specifically with this productivity system in mind. My very favourite feature is a Master List that actually folds out, so it’s even easier to refer back to it at the start of every week. How cool is that?!
I can truthfully say that this simple system has revolutionised my productivity and the way I plan and organise my life.
I feel so much more on top of things now, and I’m feeling less stressed than ever, even though I’ve had my busiest couple of months in years. Between school holidays (in Australia we have our long summer holiday over Christmas), three small kids at home to look after 24/7, family staying, a series of decorating clients, a product launch, and a whole heap of time consuming behind-the-scenes blog admin stuff to do with my changeover to WordPress, it’s been crazy-busy around here. I’ve also been in full-on decluttering mode to kick the year off right… oh, and I’m 30 weeks pregnant and need a nana nap EVERY day after lunch just to survive the day! But I’ve still managed to knock out some big goals for January, and I’ve done it without losing sleep or tearing out my hair. I feel like I seriously owe my sanity to my planner and the way it helps me break things down, simplify, and create focus.
It’s been wonderful to see so many others enjoying their Dreams by Design planner as well. If you want to take a closer look and see exactly what’s inside (hint: there’s 200 pages of goodness!) you can find all the juicy details right here. The best part of a printable is that you get it instantly – no waiting round. So you can strike while the iron’s hot and take action straight away – you’ll be so glad you did!
And if you try out the Monthly Master List idea, I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
Let’s chat: Are you a to-do list person? Do you ever add things onto your list just so you can cross them straight off…? (Please tell me I’m not alone!) Is this an idea you’d like to try?