The Monday Motivator | To-do Lists

January 28, 2019

The Monday Motivator is a series meant to motivate, encourage, inspire and provide advice on real life stuff.*

How do you start your Mondays?

I'm guessing it kicks off with an early alarm for work, your normal "get ready" routine, and hopefully time for a cup of coffee or whatever else wakes you up for the day. (And if reading the latest Monday Motivator is in there somewhere, I'm so happy to be a part of it!)

I am a VERY routine person. The start of my Mondays looks the same as the start of my Tuesdays through Fridays. Except you know how most people are a little groggier on Monday mornings? That's  me on a Tuesday morning. On Mondays, I feel anxious to get started, so I have a little more energy. (Until 5 o'clock at night hits and it all catches up to me!)

When I finally get a little down time during my Monday mornings at work, I whip out my planner and make my weekly to-do list. 

Does anyone else do this? We all plan differently; some of us have weekly to-do lists, monthly to-do lists, or sometimes NO to-do lists. I'm all about writing down my tasks, and I'm personally a weekly gal. I like to see what I have to do laid out in front of me so I don't forget or miss anything. I do this because I know falling behind is something that stresses me out, so I try to prevent it. 

But let's get real: to-do lists can be very daunting, especially if you're like me and take it super seriously. I think to myself, "if I can't accomplish these tasks by next Monday, I'm screwed." In reality, if I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture, some items aren't exactly a "make it or break it" if they don't get done in a week. 

I'm not saying it's good to make lists and just ignore them week after week. But prioritizing your list of to-dos is KEY. 

I wasn't always a to-do list maker. It wasn't until I started working full-time that I felt the need to make them weekly. This is because my time is limited during the week, so I have to get things done after work and on the weekends. A list helps me stay focused.

Here's what else I have found to be true about making to-do lists:

I am NOTORIOUS for screwing this one up. When there's a whole list of things to do, it's easy to think "oh yeah, I'll finish this all today!"  WRONG. You will spend too much time deciding where to start, or even worse, starting too many things at once. You will get overwhelmed, frustrated and more stressed out than you were before seeing the to-do list. If you focus on only ONE task each day, you're more likely to make progress AND feel less overwhelmed. 

If you plan weekly like I do, only assign yourself 4-5 tasks. Put the most important things at the top, and the ones that don't have a specific due date toward the bottom. The number of tasks can vary from week to week, but it's important to keep the list light. A longer list feels scary and overwhelming, which can lead us to avoid it all together. If tackling our list in a week is actually doable, we will feel encouraged to be more productive.

Going along with keeping your list light, you want to make your to-do list fit the week you're having. If your upcoming week is busy with events, appointments or plans, make your list short with only the things that MUST get done. If you make a big list during a busy week, you won't get to all of it, which will make you feel like you failed when in reality, it just wasn't possible. If your week is shaping up to be a lighter one, add one of those longer-term projects onto your list and make time for it.

Most importantly, I repeat, MOST IMPORTANTLY, do NOT feel guilty if you don't accomplish every single thing on your to-do list. We are, after all, only human. Sometimes we need a break. Or things come up. Life is unpredictable, therefore a to-do list should never be written in stone. Accomplish what you can and do your best. But don't let your to-do list own you week after week. 

Whether you currently make to-do lists or are thinking about starting one to help keep you on track, I hope these tips make the process seem a little less intimidating and lead to a lot more productivity.


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