5 Reasons Your To-do List Sucks

If you’ve been here before you probably know that I am a huge planner and I love a good to-do list. The more I talk about planning, the more I notice the people who aren’t fans of to-do lists seem to have a lot in common.  Normally the point of a to-do list is to break down a goal into the tasks you need to do in order to accomplish that goal. Sadly not everyone is using their to-do list this way.

Five Reasons Your To-do List Sucks.

It’s Too Long

Few things are more stressful than a to-do list two pages long. I know I used to do this to myself. Throughout the week I’d add things to a Google doc with the unrealistic expectations of getting them done on Saturday. For me, these were blog and business development tasks I wanted to do with a few errands sprinkled in. What would usually happen is I’d go to a cafe to write after parting ways with Netflix and maybe knock off two or three items if I was lucky.  It was too much!

Sitting down on Sunday nights or Monday mornings to plan out what all you want and need to accomplish for the week is great. But don’t leave it as one definitive daunting list. Break it up into smaller daily lists.

It’s Not In Order

Let’s say you are working on a big project like planning an event or launching a website. There are a lot of little things to do but you can’t put the cart before the horse. You can’t order the business cards before you have a business name. You can’t book the venue before you selected possible dates. 

A great example of this that I fall into is with the idea of batching. I love the idea of batching. I decided that I wanted to start posting a quote on Instagram every Wednesday I decided that I would batch that. On a to-do list it makes more sense to plan it in this order.

  • Find 8 quotes to post on Instagram
  • Find 8 images to go with the quotes
  • Make those 8 quote graphics in Canva
  • Schedule the images in Buffer

This is the order that makes the most sense instead of finding one quote, then a picture, then creating a graphic, scheduling, then doing this over again 8 times. It’s quicker and less task switching and going back and forth.

You’re Planning For A Superhuman

Remember that time you lifted that car off that baby and met an asteroid in the middle of the sky to save the planet? Yeah, me either, because we aren’t superheroes. One of the biggest obstacles I see with to-do lists is people listing items that just aren’t doable for a to-do list.

If you want to start your own business that is not an item you put on your to-do list. That is a larger goal that is made up of many parts. 

A to-do list to get started might look more like:

  • Outline Business Plan
  • Brainstorm 10 business names
  • Research the different types of business filings and decide which is right for me.

You can’t put “Create a business on your to-do list.” The target of a to-do list is to break down the things you want to do for a work session, a day or a week, not a long term goal that should be broken down into chunks. Adding too many tasks or tasks that would take more than a day on their own is just going to stress you out.

You Forget To Schedule It

So you know what you need to do. You’ve made a list of actionable tasks that you need to do in order to reach that big shiny goal. A week passes and your list has the same number of items if not more.

What went wrong? You didn’t fit it into your schedule. If you’re working a full-time time job, building a business on the side and trying to have a life it’s easy to let these things slip through the cracks. You have to literally plan the time to get the items on your to-do list done. You can’t say, “I’ll get it done sometime tomorrow night.”  No. If you leave for work at 8:30 am and don’t get home until 6:30 you need to decide when you will work on that day’s items. Will you wake up at 6 am and tackle one item then? Will you bring your personal laptop and work on your lunch break in the break room? Will you avoid traffic and go to that cafe by your office after work until it’s time to go home and make dinner?

If you can’t schedule the time to do the items on your list then you need to take another look at it because you may have too much on it or items that need to be broken down even smaller.

You Always Go For The Easy Win

I will be the first to tell you not to make all the items on your to-do lists super intense big goals. You need a healthy balance of big and small tasks on your to-do list. I’m not saying don’t tackle low hanging fruit (easy to grab or complete items), I’m saying you shouldn’t do this all the time.

Often when working people have a list of things they want to accomplish but they will just go for the easy wins. The problem is they mark off things like, “Email John Smith times to meet up.” Then they check off something else simple like, “Fill up my Buffer account,”

Then they pick one more small task like, “Respond to comments in my Facebook group for one Pomodoro.

They think, “I knocked three things off my to-do list, I’m feeling pretty good.”

But neglect the bigger to-dos like, “Finish course outline,” or “Create the landing page and ConvertKit sequence for the webinar.”

I get it! It feels great to cross things off your to-do list but if you aren’t getting anything truly accomplished you’re just treading water. It’s like going to the gym and hanging out at the smoothie bar the whole time, you’re in the right place but you aren’t doing what needs to be done there.

You have to have the right combination of goal achieving activities and stress relieving activities. Celebrate every win but don’t confuse process for progress.

Are you guilty of any of these to-do list missteps? What is the biggest issue you face with getting things done? If you are ready to create your perfect to-do list join me for a free live workshop to learn how to plan your perfect to-do list, this Tuesday, May 16th at 7:00 pm CST.  Sorry you missed the webinar.

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  • Shell Peterson

    Everything you mentioned, I do….
    I really need to be better at organizing my to -do list for better time management.
    I find it so difficult while watching 4 kids though.
    xo, Shell
    http://acourageousbeauty.com/

    • Dia

      You have a lot on your plate! Thanks for stopping by. Having a super organized to-do list and plan is a great way to make the most of the small windows of time you do have. Best of luck 🙂

  • Ashley Stephenson

    Yep these are all true! If I don’t put it in some sort of order nothing gets completed.

    • Dia

      Then you just end up feeling like you’re spinning in circles I totally get it. Thanks for stopping by Ashley.

  • Nicola @ Happy Healthy Motivat

    I make a to-do list every single day and I’m guilty of all these things. Having you point it out to me like this shows me I clearly need to relax a little bit and be more forgiving toward myself!

    • Dia

      We are all our own toughest critics and judge. The fact that you even make the time to do them is the best place to start.

  • “youre planning for a superhuman” made me laugh. I feel like this is always my list. Get 100 things done in 3 minutes! I really need to work on putting it in the right order.

    • Dia

      You aren’t alone. it’s like, “If I’m really motivated then I’ll do all of this.” No because no matter how motivated you are there are still only 24 hours in a day. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Batching tasks together is my jam, so I love the tip about writing tasks out in order! Love. :]

    // itsCarmen.com

    • Dia

      Thanks Carmen! Yeah I mean if you’re starting in the middle you’re just making things harder on yourself.

  • ARob79

    Love these tips! Breaking the complete task down, into returnable parts, is brilliant. Definitely using these! Tfs!!

    • Dia

      Thank you! yeah I think it helps prevent the overwhelm.