I don’t mind telling you that not long ago I found myself feeling a bit inundated.
A bit overwhelmed.
I didn’t have a strict plan or schedule for my freelance work and my to-do list loomed over me with the weight of the ridiculously large and complex tasks I’d assigned myself.
I’ve never regretted leaving the rat race – not once – but at least I knew (only too well) what I was doing there every day. In the Land of Self-Employed Freelancer however some self-imposed structure is needed, so setting out what needs to be done on a daily basis is of particular importance.
But do you need a to-do list?
In a word – yes. But it’s also worth noting that if you approach your to-do list in a certain way it can often be counter-productive.
For months I was going about organising my working day in entirely the wrong way for me. Until recently my to-do list actually scared me instead of helping me to progress.
Naturally I’m one of those people who feels the need to write everything down and so (almost like a purging) I was listing everything that needed to be done.
And I mean everything.
And let me tell you; if your to-do list reads more like an edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica as mine did (and gets updated as laboriously), then it causes a lot more harm than good.
I would write my beloved to-do lists full of enthusiasm and vigour, but the completion of each item – the bit that actually mattered let’s not forget – very often didn’t happen. Why? Because the tasks were too large and way too unrealistic.
I wasn’t setting myself realistic and specific to-do list tasks. I was writing down goals and outcomes – not singular actions to take.
Writing down goals is not a bad idea as it goes – in fact I truly believe this can help turn them into reality – it’s just that the humble to-do list is not necessarily the best forum for this type of goal setting.
So I sat down and had a think and came up with some to-do lists rules…
A to do-list should never read anything like this:
1. Get 2 new clients
2. Start that new project
3. Work on marketing strategy
No, no, NO! This is far too vague and gives way too much focus on the end result, rather than on the tasks that need completing in order to get those results.
A successful to-do list should read something like this:
1. Email pitch company A and publication B
2. Complete X, Y and Z for new project
3. Email mailing list about new promotion and promote on Twitter and Facebook
That’s more like it.
Not only is this more specific but it’s also short and concise.
What I’ve also found is that by choosing the most crucial tasks you must complete that day and only listing them, it makes your day so much more manageable. If it’s critical it gets done that day, if it’s not, let it go for now.
I know, scary isn’t it? But I mean it – just let it go.
You’ll get it done, just not today. This alone has made a huge difference to structuring my day and not letting my to-do list overwhelm me. And guess what? More often than not I find that these little non crucial tasks I used to fret about so much have a strange way of resolving themselves or disappearing altogether without any negative repercussions whatsoever.
Funny how that works isn’t it?
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