How to create a daily to do list is a common challenge. Often during my initial conversation when prospective clients are calling in to find out more about my consulting and coaching services, I can hear frustration in their voices when they utter things like “I can’t follow my own daily to do list!”
During my first session with one particular client, she gave me an example from her personal life about how she jots down her intentions on a daily to-do list, but then everything goes awry. She starts on one task and ends up working on other tasks that weren’t on her list. Then she’s frustrated because she didn’t finish her original to do list.
When she was done venting about a particular home maintenance project, this is what I shared with her about how to create a daily to do list:
“Sometimes when we start working on a project, there’s a domino effect. One thing leads to another. That’s what happened with washing your walls. The good news about the rest of your list not getting done is that it happened because your task moved in a different direction…not because you decided to blow off working.
If it really bothers you to not finish your daily to do list, then when a ‘detour’ pops up you can ask yourself, ‘What will make me feel better at the end of the day: taking this detour now or finishing my to do list and taking the detour tomorrow?’
If your choice is the former, move the rest of your daily to do list forward to another day or another week – depending on how high of a priority those tasks are. Basically, you’re going to create a daily to do list for a future day for the original items you’ve decided not to complete so that you can follow the detour. If you’re list-driven, this will help remove the visual reminder that you had to morph your plan, and you’ll give yourself permission to change your route without beating yourself up. You can take it a step further – if it will help you feel better – and add the new tasks that you finish to your to-do list, then cross them off. It sounds crazy, but taking a few seconds to do this makes a lot of people feel better.
If your choice is the latter, take a few seconds to capture your thoughts about what new to-do’s were birthed from the current project, then you can continue to move forward with your current do-do list. In this scenario, you’re going to create a daily to do list for a future day for your new detour to do’s.
I hope that you give yourself credit for the huge amount of things that you do get done!”
This is very common with my clients. They don’t acknowledge how much they get done. Instead they focus on what they didn’t do and how things didn’t go according to plan. But here’s the deal: When you start a project, unless you’ve done the exact same task before under the exact same conditions, there’s no way to know precisely what will happen. It’s OK if you end up doing something else. The key is that you made progress. You didn’t throw in the towel. You didn’t decide to spend an hour on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram instead of completing tasks that will benefit your work life or personal life.
If you’re completing tasks that need to get done – just in a different order than was originally planned – then it’s time to view adjusting your daily to-do list and completing a different set of tasks as not a failure but a WIN.