Most of us rely on a to-do list to help us be productive and keep track of all the things that need to get done during the day.
However, the problem with to-do lists are that they keep you focused on those things that are URGENT, that need to be done TODAY. Meanwhile, hundreds of other ‘ important-but-not-urgent’ things are hanging about in our minds, cluttering up our mental space.
It adds to the ever-growing mental load that our brains are trying to deal with and can seriously slow down our productivity, our thinking and can even make us feel anxious.
To-do lists are great, don’t get me wrong. But do you know what’s even better? Having NO to-do list!
Here is a wonderful strategy by Brooke Castillo from ‘The Life Coach School’ podcast that will allow you to get rid of your to-do list, let go of the mental load AND be more productive:
1. In a notebook, write down everything that you have to do, need to do and want to do. Write down everything that you can think of. Short term and long term things, everything.
2. When you think you’re done, ask, “What else?” Keep on asking “what else?” until you’re sure that everything is out on paper. The first time that you do this exercise, your list is going to be very long, but it’s going to feel so good to get everything out of your head and onto paper!
3. Go through your list and make sure you break all complex tasks down into steps e.g. Painting the house. Step 1: Search for painters on Google. Step 2: Email painters to ask for quotations. Step 3: Go to the hardware shop to get paint samples etc.
4. Now go through your list again and see if there is anything on there that you really do not want to do or need to do. Scrap that.
5. Look at your list and start prioritising tasks in terms of when they need to get done. You might want to use coloured markers for this e.g. red = this week, green = this month.
6. Now that everything is prioritised, you are going to put it in your phone’s calendar or your diary. This might take some time to do, but it’s important that you find a time and place for each of these tasks.
Once you have everything in your diary, you don’t have to think about it anymore. You have freed up a huge amount of mental space
Do this mental download once a week – the start of the week works great.
The first time you do this, it might feel like quite a lengthy process, but it will go much faster the second time as you don’t need to write the things down that you have already scheduled.
Really commit to sticking to your calendar. Yes, there will be times that you might have to reschedule tasks, but try to reschedule it immediately, otherwise you need to keep thinking about it and the whole point of this exercise it to make sure you have less on your mind.