Tuesday’s Chill Pill: An Organizational Habit Worth Trying if You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

I don’t know about you, but I have lots of good intentions for 2010.

But as we all know, there’s a big difference between having good intentions and actually following through on them. If you’re anything like me, your to-do list is a mile long, and when it’s long, it’s easy to get trapped on the task treadmill, just plugging away, crossing things off your list…without ever really making sure your making progress. Last Friday, I got a little depressed as I stared at my list, because even at the end of a week where I felt like I was working my butt off, there were a lot more things not crossed off than crossed off.

It got me thinking.

I realized that I hadn’t integrated my good intentions for 2010 into my to-do list.

So I’m trying something a little bit different with my to-do’s this week. I typically write them for the week on Sunday nights, and add to it during the week as needed. I’m sticking with that basic approach. BUT rather than thinking about it as “to-do” list time, I’ve renamed that time my “weekly strategy session.” Here’s what I’m doing differently to make sure that my to-do’s are really aligned with my good intentions.

– I spent 5 minutes focusing on my “good intentions” and goals for the year (and for the next 3 to 6 months) before I start jotting down my laundry list of tasks.

– I wrote down a small number (4-6) of MUSTS for this week – and those musts by definition had to be linked with my bigger goals for the year. We have a great notepad called the NothingElse.pad that asks the question, “If I do nothing else today, I must do 1,2,3.” I am going to use that each day to make sure I keep my must do’s front and center, rather than working off of my long list in my regular to-do notebook, which just makes me feel like I’m never making any progress.

– I jotted down all the rest of my to-do’s so that I had them in my usual notebook and won’t forget anything.

– I actually went into my calendar and scheduled the tasks associated with the MUSTS

I cannot tell you how big a difference this little tweak made for me. I felt focused and alive as I headed into Tuesday morning, rather than tired and overwhelmed.