I got my first "O: The Oprah Magazine" in the mail today, and on the cover it says, "Tame Your To-Do List: Expert Advice on Making it Shorter, Smarter, Easier."
Oprah is so right. Making your To-Do List more manageable should be the #1 task on everyone's To-Do List, especially writers.
One of the biggest obstacles I see so many writers face is the feeling of overwhelm. As you juggle various writing projects, platform building, book promotion, blogging, social media, family, and the many other joys and obligations of life, it can literally make your head spin.
For the last two years my To-Do List has been more than overflowing with tasks related to the book, Your Ultimate Life Plan, by Dr. Jennifer Howard. I helped write the book proposal, edit the book, and now I'm on her book promotion team. Add all that to my own writing projects and there's always SO MUCH TO DO!!!!
So here's my expert advice, based on many years of grappling with To-Do Lists that fill page after page after page after page.
If it feels like you have 1000 things to do and only a small amount of time to do them in, and your head starts spinning, take a deep breath and...
- Pull out a piece of paper.
- Make a list of those 1000, no… 350, no… 14 things you think you have to do today (whatever's on your mind goes on the paper).
- Write what feels like the three most important tasks on a separate piece of paper (perhaps an index card or even a post-it note), and put your original list away—out of sight.
To be clear, I don't mean for you to put "write my book" on your Top 3 List. Break all your large goals into smaller goals--bite-sized chunks you can get done within the amount of time you have to work today--so instead of "write my book," put, "write introduction" or "write 2nd section of 3rd chapter."
- Do the second task on the list. Complete it (or get as far as you can, today).
- Do the third task on the list. Complete it (or get as far as you can, today).
- When all three tasks are done, pull your big list out of it's hiding place, and decide which are the next three tasks you’re going to do.
Writing down and organizing ALL of your writing and book related tasks, makes it easier to get everything done, because it lessens your sense of overwhelm and confusion, helps you focus in on and get specific about what needs to be done for your current project (as well as for your long-term goals), and gives you a step-by-step action plan that helps you move steadily forward.
There will always be a lot, often too much, to do. Yet, in any given moment, you can only do one thing at a time—what’s right in front of you. Your Top 3 List might take you a day or more to complete, or you could go through several in a day. Either way, with only three things to do instead of fifty, it doesn't feel so overwhelming.
Multitasking divides your focus, and dilutes your energy. It’s better to give whatever you’re working on your undivided attention, even when you’re juggling several writing projects, or are doing marketing as well as writing. When you're fully focused on the task at hand, it goes more quickly and easily, and you’re more likely to finish it. You'll be more efficient and effective this way—and get a lot more done.
Other productivity posts you might be interested in:
- Throw Away Your TO DO List and Get More Done!
- How to Write Daily (or Meet Whatever Writing Goal You Set) More Easily
To learn more about Dr. Howard's wonderful book, Your Ultimate Life Plan, and read two free chapters, go to: