How To Create A To Do List And Get Things Done Even If You Don’t Follow It

How To Create A To-Do List And Get Things Done Even If You Don’t Follow It

When it comes to my business and to-do lists, I’ve come to accept that it’s an ebb and flow process for me.

I make great to-do lists. It’s just that I don’t always follow them.

This is partly because I’m a bit rebellious.  I fight against being told what to do even if I’m the one setting the agenda. But I also fail to follow my to-do list because what I consciously set out to accomplish that day isn’t always on the inspirational agenda. My muse always comes. She just doesn’t always come for the projects I’m scheduled to complete.

Despite these to-do list hiccups, I usually manage to get a lot done. My secret is that I’ve learned to accept the way I work. I adapt and adjust to it instead of the other way around, and I always leave a little room for some unexpected moments.

My productivity process is kind of like how I deal with my natural hair. I can try and force my fro into a particular style. But if I don’t like the way my hair looks after the first 2 attempts, I stop trying and let it do its own thing. It always ends up looking better that way.

If you are having a bit of a struggle with your production process, here’s a look at how I organize my list and get things done even if when I don’t follow it.

How I Write My To-Do List

To set my day-to-day agenda, I mix two of my favorite goal setting and productivity strategies – The Conquer Kit: A Creative Business Planner for Women Entrepreneurs by Natalie MacNeil and How To Start and Build a Law Practice by Jay Foonberg. Both books are excellent resources if you are looking to start a client-based business or law practice. And here’s what I do:

Step 1: Set 3-5 Major Goals For The Year.

Write down all of the major goals you’d like to accomplish in one year and whittle that down to a list of 3-5 major goals. This may seem like a small number, but when you set unrealistic expectations and don’t achieve what you set out to do, it can lead to all sorts of unnecessary negative self-talk and halt progress. By limiting yourself to the top 3 to 5 major goals, you focus yourself and manage expectations.

Step 2: Set Milestones With Deadlines For Each Goal.

Want to know if you are heading in the right direction toward achieving your annual goals? Set milestones along your path to keep you focused. For each of your 5 goals, you’ll want to set at least 5 time-sensitive milestones.

Setting milestones with deadlines forces you to make a decision and get things done on a deadline. This stops you from wallowing in indecision and research. Once you commit to the milestones and deadlines, you’ll see how each step moves you closer and closer toward your goal.

Step 3: Create a LATL

To translate the milestones into daily activities, I create a LATL – Long Ass To-do List. My LATL is a master list of everything I think I need to do to reach that milestone. It also includes all of those day-to-day tasks that come up like buy toothpaste, call my sister, buy a birthday gift, etc.

It’s called a Long Ass To-Do List because it’s long. I mean really long, but I make it manageable the Jay Foonberg way. Each day, I select and rank 5-8 things from my LATL that I’d like to or need to get done that day. As I complete each item, it’s crossed off my daily to-do list. Anything that I do not complete gets transferred to the top of my daily list for the next day.

In a perfect world, that’s how my action items get moved from my to-dos to done, but sometimes that just doesn’t. There are reasons and explanations. But the bottom line is that even on those days, I still need to progress in my business. So here’s what I do to get stuff done anyway.

What I Do When I Don’t Follow My To-Do List

Fall Back On Habits

When I see that my mind and spirit won’t be forced into submission, I have an established routine that helps me feel accomplished even if nothing gets crossed off my to-do list.

First, I allow myself about 40 minutes or so to do anything other than what’s on the list. Usually, I’m distracted because I want to read a chapter of a book, catch an episode of one of my favorite shows, or work on some creative project. So I just let myself take the time to do it. Once that’s done, I can usually refocus.

If that break doesn’t work, however, I fall back on this habitual routine:

  • I write anything for an hour. I always have to create content for something. So writing with no agenda usually leads me to write something that can be used somewhere in my business.
  • I post or engage on one social media platform. I know this is a small step, but it helps me to feel that I am ever so slightly increasing my network.
  • I read a business or personal development book for at least an hour. Personal and business development through reading is always useful in business at any time; and
  • I call it quits. That’s it. If I still can’t return to my to-do list after I perform these tasks, I don’t beat myself up. I stop. I find something fun to do and do that instead.

Ask For Help

Another strategy I use to get things done when I’m not accomplishing goals myself is that I ask for help. I’ve talked about hiring help in a past blog post, but this is just another reason why outsourcing tasks in your business is a good idea. If you have help, you’re business still moves forward even if you are having one of those days.

Take A Break

Finally, if I am struggling to stick to my to-do list, it’s because I don’t want to do the things on it for some reason. Often its because my mind is telling I need a break. Rest and relaxation are part of the entrepreneurial process.  When I can’t seem to get anything done, I stop trying. I take a break, go to sleep, and try again the next day. Usually, I wake up refreshed and ready to work without all the angst.

Do you always complete the items on your to-do list? If not, what do you do instead? I’d love to hear your strategies for getting things done. Let me know in the comments below.