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5 To Do List Mistakes (And How To Stop Them!)

Do you ever get to the end of a busy day, look at your To Do list, and wonder why you barely made a mark on it? Are you making some common To Do list mistakes?

This was ME. For longer than I’d care to admit. Eek.

In fact, I had some misplaced pride in having a lengthy To Do list every day yet all that did was make me feel disorganised and overwhelmed.

I use my planner to write my daily to do list and I’ve got it down to a fine art now.

I’ve worked out exactly how to prioritize my day, to simplify what needs to get done and ONLY include the essentials on my To Do list.

I share more on that in this post about how I prioritise my to do list but let’s get on with the mistakes and how to end them.

If you feel like getting through your list is an impossible feat, it’s probably because you’re making one, more or all of these mistakes:

Mim Jenkinson writing in a planner - Love from Mim

5 To Do List Errors To Change Now

1.  Your list is too big

Let’s get real – you only have so much time, capacity and energy in one day. And not sure about you but I wane as the day goes on. In fact by 7pm I’m about ready for Netflix and not much more, lately!

If you’re consistently not clearing your list by the end of the day, it’s because you’re trying to do too much.

While you’ve been beating yourself up for ‘not being organised’ or ‘procrastinating’, perhaps you’re simply trying to achieve the impossible?

This was me – 100%.

Now I structure my day with 1-3 main things I want to accomplish and then have a very small list of others tasks that I will move on to but only after I’ve hit those main goals.

2. You’re not prioritising

When you’ve written your To Do list for the day, look at it again – with a very critical eye.

Are the tasks you’ve written down really necessary or can any be deleted?

Can any be outsourced or passed to someone else?

Can any be automated or streamlined – this potentially works if they’re repetitive tasks.

I write my daily To Do lists on Friday afternoons for the following week and I spend just as much time redoing it as I have writing it in the first place. You’ll be amazed how many of the tasks you write down simply aren’t important or essential and can be removed from the list entirely.

3. You add pointless tasks

I’m going to hold my hand up and say I’m guilty of this at times – but do you ever write tasks down that you’ve already completed, just so you can check them off? GUILTY!

Or the easy simple everyday things that really have no business being on a To Do list?

You too? (Say it wasn’t just me!)

Let’s keep our lists for the new tasks only. Of course, if you want to track your habits, DO! I am a BIG fan of habit tracking – but your To Do list is for your tasks, not habits.

Click to find out how to use a habit tracker, and download a free one, here.

4.  You’re missing the mark by multi-tasking

There is no benefit in starting a few tasks and never finishing them if you can tackle each on in turn and complete them well. Stop getting distracted and learn how to prioritize tasks with what’s most important first.

This can be especially tough if you are juggling many commitments and especially if you have the same deadline for multiple jobs. It’s much better to allocate time for each one separately and so much more efficient for you to do so as well.

4.  You’re not being flexible enough

Although I don’t recommend multi-tasking – that doesn’t mean you can’t reshuffle your To Do list when you need to.

Give that list a shakedown!

There will be times when your priorities or deadlines change and one job becomes much more urgent suddenly. Be flexible and open to reshuffling your To Do list to reflect this change.

Throughout the day, take a few minutes to have another glance at your To Do list for that day.

Are your priorities still the same? Do you need to reshuffle anything?

As well as giving you the opportunity to reassess your priorities, it’s also a positive way to see how much you’ve already accomplished by counting up those ticks!

How to stop making these To Do list mistakes

My biggest tip is to keep things simple – and realistic. No one ever won an award for having the longest list. No-one. Ever.

If you’re consistently getting to the end of your days and feeling bad about not checking off all you wanted to, examine why that’s the case.

I move tasks that don’t get completed over to the next day until they’re done – but that means reprioritizing all of the tasks for that next day of course.

What are your best tips for ensuring that the To Do list you write is realistic and achievable?

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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.