The Only Cure I’ve Found For A Never-Ending To-Do List

Two gray pencils on corner of a yellow rectangle

Have you ever woken up overwhelmed, realizing that your to-do list is so long that you have no hope of accomplishing your goals for today?

I definitely have. It’s a chronic problem for many of us, and if that’s you too, it’s really worth doing the work to change your habits now so that you don’t continue to sabotage your mindset and hope of a great day before it’s begun.

When I read the book The One Thing, I was stunned by the deceptively simple premise. Ask yourself “what’s the one thing I can do today that will move me forward toward _”?

To answer it, you’ll need to know your top goal right now. And for me, I’ve got goals in a variety of areas, so there’s still some juggling involved. But for instance, if my taxes are due soon and they aren’t done yet, that might be the most important goal for me right now, which means the one thing I simply MUST accomplish today to be most effective might be gathering all the paperwork I’ll need to get my taxes done this month.

Over time, I’ve learned to allow myself to set 2 or 3 goals for the day sometimes. And that works. But always, I also make sure I know the #1 thing, and honestly, it’s most effective for most people to do that one thing first. But however you do it, get clear on your priorities for each day, and set those 1-3 goals. If you accomplish them, then know that You. Are. Done. You do not need to do ANYTHING ELSE. You are successful today. Well done.

And if just getting started feels daunting, it’s great to commit to taking 5 minutes (or however long) just to assess the entire task ahead of you. Read the instructions/read the emails you were sent. You don’t have to do the whole project – that counts as accomplishing something for today.

This technique works best when you also do some work articulating the one thing that would move the needle for you this week, and this month, and this year – and maybe even this lifetime!

The answers will vary, of course, over time, but these regular check-ins keep you honest with yourself, keep you from doing busywork or other work that just doesn’t mean as much or just isn’t as important right now.

Have you tried this technique? How does it work for you? And if this isn’t the technique for you, what’s worked better in your own life?


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