What To Do When Your To-Do List Starts Getting A Bit Too Long

The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity at our house. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to take it easy and just relax because of all the family gatherings, church functions and other miscellaneous events like our all day gun training class that we took last weekend. As with most summers here in Minnesota the calendar has been full to the brim.

While it’s fun to be constantly on the go, and socializing with family and friends, it can also be a bit stressful at times when you’re someone like me who likes to get things done. I’m the kind of person who likes to make a list, and then check things off my list as I accomplish them. These last few months, however, it seems like my list has just been getting longer and the check-marks on the completed column have been few and far between.

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So what’s a person supposed to do when life gets hectic, and they have so much to do? How can you refocus your energies and get back to checking off those tasks on your to-do list instead of just letting them slide or pushing them off until tomorrow?

task listRefocus Your Priorities

For me one of the hardest things to do once I’ve gotten into a rut is to actually get back on track, and stop avoiding my to-do list and the associated tasks.

The problem for me often is when I’ve pushed something off for so long, it starts to seem like less of a priority, and I can rationalize in my head that I’ve pushed it off for so long, it wouldn’t hurt to push it off for another few weeks. At times like these it pays to stop, organize your thoughts in your head, and refocus your priorities before the list becomes unmanageable.

Take a few moments to think about where you’re spending your time (on less important things probably?), and think about where you can carve out a couple of hours here and there to focus on your important financial and personal finance tasks. You may even want to take a personal finance day off to organize your money situation!

Organize Your To-Do List

Once you’ve taken the time to refocus your energies and figure out where you can carve out some time to focus on your tasks, it’s time to actually sit down and figure out what’s going to be on your to-do list. For me it’s a hodge podge of financial and blog tasks, most of which I’ve been putting off for months.

To actually make my list I use the Evernote app for Kindle Fire. It allows you to create and save notes, within which you can create check-marked to-do lists – which you can then access from your computer, tablet or smartphone. I love it, and use it on all my devices!

So go ahead and figure out what things are most important, and what things need to be done first. Put together an actual to-do list in Evernote or your application of choice, and rank them items on your list in the order you need to get them done.

organize and strategize your to do list

Here’s my current to-do list seen in the screen capture above:

Those are the main things on my current to-do list, and now that I sat down and wrote it out earlier this week, it’s time to start strategizing when I’ll get these things done.

Strategize A Course Of Action

Once your list is created and prioritized, it’s time to sit down and decide when things are going to get done. For me I just looked at my ranked list and decided that I’m going to first do the things that HAVE to get done like paying my taxes and switching my site hosting. Paying my estimated taxes was probably most important since the deadline to pay them is next Monday, 9/17. Now that I have that done it’s on to the next thing on the list, moving my websites to a new host. My sites help to create income for my family, so every day that I can’t keep the site stable, I lose money. I’ll be signing up for a new host and starting to move my web properties over later tonight.

For the rest of the tasks I’ll be starting on them next week. I’ll start getting quotes on a refinance on our home first, then work my way down the list.

Execute Your Plan: Take Action

Once you’ve made a to-do list, and strategized how to get it done, the last thing to do is just to execute the plan and take action. I’ve already started to do that on my list, I’ve checked off the first couple of high priority items. Next I’ll be moving on down the list and working on those things, re-prioritizing as needed. Of course, as new tasks emerge, I’ll be adding them to the list and re-organizing as I go.

Do you have your own way about creating and executing a to-do list? Tell us your hints, tips and tricks in the comments!

Last Edited: 13th September 2012

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    Share Your Thoughts:

    • says

      Every day? Wow. You must be more productive and getting more things done than me if you’re re-writing it every day, or you add more things to your list that I don’t even bother adding. :)

      Asking yourself if things should even be on your list is a great idea.

  1. says

    I find that my to-do list is never ending. What I like to do is force myself to go in order and not skip over the items I don’t want to do. If I know something needs to get done this help me stay on track to finish everything else to get down to that one item.

  2. Noah says

    I too have felt like I am accomplishing a lot less than I would like but I too am also someone who loves to be busy and can’t sit still for very long. Between weddings and my son’s 1st birthday, the summer was very unproductive (and I gained 5 lbs due to 2 months of gorging on food). My other problem is that my programming side job comes in spurts and I would rather make money than do other things that I can put off indefinitely.

  3. says

    Hi Peter,
    And thanks for sharing this post with the BizSugar community. I’m just wondering whether you’re moving your blogs to a new hosting company because of the recent GoDaddy outage. Choice of hosting company is one of those decisions that seems mundane but ends up being critical if you hope to be successful.

    • says

      My pleasure!

      I’m not moving because of the Godaddy outages, I’m moving because my current host and server has become a bit unstable, having frequent outages, and since it’s a self managed dedicated virtual server, the support has not been helpful. I’m moving to Storm on Demand this weekend.

  4. says

    Every night I actually try to create a to-do list for the following day. I list them in priority and knock them off the best that I can. In the grand scheme of life though I think the organizing priorities is an important once. It’s so easy to push some important things on the backburner and ignore them. Realizing what’s important and what really should be coming first in your life is always a good thing to get back in the forefront of your mind. :)

  5. says

    I have struggled with creating my to-do list due to the fact that I haven’t put down all the stuff in one place. I am thinking of creating a personal kanban pinboard, so I can get an overview of the workflow. I have started to use a web based tool called LeanKit.

    If you want to play around with a “tongue-in-cheek” app, check out Put Things Off.

  6. says

    I have a few to-do lists going every day: I have one at work that I have in a notepad where I move tasks to “completed” when I’m done, and I continually add to this and try to have it ready to go for the next day before I leave the office. It really helps me prioritize and be efficient when I’m at work.

    Outside of work I usually just have a piece of paper or use my smartphone.

    I hear you about summers in Minnesota. My wife went to Colombia for 10 days and we went through the house-buying process (closing in October) so it really flew by.

    Also, now that the blog is really picking up and I’m getting into a “groove” I’ve found it necessary to prioritize – I could easily spend 100 hours/week working on this website and still have more things I would like to do! Prioritization is key.

    • says

      I use the task list in Outlook at work, which seems to work fine, although I tend to use it less and less these days for some reason, I suppose because it’s been a bit slow at work. It does tend to help when things get busy though.

      On the go and at home I use Evernote to keep my task lists up to date, works great!

  7. says

    I feel like my list is always getting longer and longer but I’m pretty good at catching up with all the things I need to do. Strategizing is a great way to get things done – it seems to make it easier to picture where I need to be and how I’m going to get there.

    • says

      I have a feeling that the to-do list is one of those things that never really dies, it just grows longer and longer – or if you get things done – it just stays about the same length. Either way,it’s good to try and stay on top of it!

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