Friday, March 12, 2010

Does Your To-Do or Goals List Overwhelm You?

Lists are handy to help you stay organized. But, what if your list leads you into overwhelm instead of focus, achievement, and fulfillment?

One of my newsletter readers emailed that he was not able to focus or move forward on any of his goals, and included a list of almost thirty items he’d written down for himself, and added there was more not included. He felt overwhelmed, and this left him stuck in place. I looked at the list and immediately saw why he felt this way. His list included everything from household matters to various size dreams—some of which have been on his mind for a long while.

Overwhelm is about chaos, which is a form of clutter—whether that’s in your personal or work space or in your mind (and possibly each of them simultaneously). Your to-do or goals list will clearly reflect if chaos is present—and even create it, if your list-making technique isn’t productive. If your list is anything like the reader‘s, the following suggestions can help you lift yourself out of overwhelm and into action and fulfillment.

List Making Tips:

If you don’t have a to-do and/or goals list, make one. If you have one or more lists, see if the following suggestions assist you.

First, you need separate list categories. Everything you need and/or want to do does not belong on one list. You may find a way to do this that resonates better for you, but see if these tips help. (I'll give you a tip in a moment about how to prioritize.)

*Identify any items that are Must Do items. These are things like get the oil in your car changed, make or schedule a home repair, file taxes, etc. Prioritize them on their separate list.

*Identify items you Intend/Are Committed to Do. This means nothing will stop you from doing them because you are compelled by passionate commitment. Be honest with yourself about this. Don't come from ego, but from head and heart alignment and Personal Truth. This can include clear up debt, write and publish the book you’ve talked about, expand your education or get certified in something in particular, and the like. Prioritize them.

*Any item not on one of the two lists above goes onto a list labeled Would Be Nice. This means you’d like to do these, but if you never do them it’s not a big deal to you. You do not need to prioritize this list.

Prioritizing Tip:
Look at item one and item two on the list (do this for the Must Do and Intend lists). Between those two items, which one would you most want to do now? Put some sort of tick or check mark by it. (The Must Do items may be more about urgency or importance.)
Look at item one and item three. Repeat this comparison process.
Look at item one and item four. Repeat this process.
Continue this process until you've compared item one to all the other items on the list.
Go back to item two and repeat this process (item two to item three, two to four, etc.).
Do this until you've compared every list item in this way.
The item with the most marks should be the one you feel the strongest commitment and motivation or inspiration to accomplish right now (or greatest need on your Must Do list).
This also shows an "order of importance to you" for the rest of the items.
If your priorities change, redo this process. You may find an Intend item becomes a WBN and vice versa.

I suggest you get a spiral notebook with sections and write these prioritized lists in it in pencil, in their respective sections—or create a computer document with three columns. You want to be able to easily add, move or reprioritize, and remove items.

Create a Daily Focus list. You might find it best to follow the How listed below each evening so you "sleep on it" and wake ready to go.
Select one or two prioritized items from the Must Do and Intend lists and add them to the Daily Focus list. How many you choose needs to fit realistically into your schedule.
Get the Must Do item(s) completed or moved forward first. Be sure to use your own system for indicating you've completed the item. When you do this, it's almost as though available time to work on your Intend item is a reward you've given yourself.
Intend items may take time to develop; so, you want to create a plan for this. Some of the items may take more than one day, so put it back on your daily list until you've accomplished the step(s) that fulfill your target for that day. (Implement 8 in my Reinvent Yourself e-book shows how to create a plan-of-action that works for you.) If some or all of these are larger items, you may wish to pick one or two a year and develop them as fully as you desire to. My book/ebook, How to Have What You REALLY Want, helps you zero in on what’s needed for each Intend item.
Each day, after you’ve completed your Must Do(s) and Intend item(s) or moved them forward, you can decide if you'd like to pick an item from the Would Be Nice list and focus on it. Maybe you pick a WBN item only once a week.
Commit, but be flexible. Daily events can shift, and inspirations can hit you with a whoosh. You can even fool yourself about what you believe you want to do. See if you've "should" on yourself about an item. And, you may think you want to do Item 4 on your Intend list today, but feel nudged to focus on Item 6 instead. It's likely you'll find there's a good reason for this and you'll be happy you listened to your inner guidance rather than your ego's "shoulds."
Whenever possible use the “touch it once” approach to any item.

You cannot do all of the things on your list at one time, but you can pick one at a time—the one that must be done and one you feel strongest about—and get them done, then move on to the next items on their respective lists.

Remind yourself that laser focus experiences no chaos. If you don't feel laser focus about an item, explore this—without self-judgment.

I'll share with you that I also had to look at how I was saving emails about opportunities and ideas (a habit the reader stated he did)—and, they stack up quickly. I finally came to the realization that some of those were me "shoulding" on myself. I realized what was important was to check in with my true feelings about each one: was it something I thought I "should" do or something I felt inspired and motivated to do—especially if it would move me closer to a specific target of mine (no one else's—mine).

One of the biggest obstacles we face is the absence of a true target. This means, we're grabbing arrows and firing them, pretty much randomly, at lots of targets, in the hope we hit one or more. No marksman becomes a marksman by following that method. Think of the items on your lists as targets. Are they ones you must hit (responsibilities/obligations); have a passionate commitment to hit and you'll do what it takes, however long it takes; or would it be nice if you hit them, but that's all?

Laser focus and chaos cannot exist in the same space. Work for uninterrupted blocks of one or two hours. If you work at your computer, turn off your email for that period of time and check emails during five- to ten-minute breaks after you complete your chosen time block. You lose two to four hours of productive time a day when you bounce between your project and other tasks.

Small improvements are powerful and make a difference. You want to do what it takes to create successes or achievements, even “smaller” ones, because each one gives you energy to go for more.

Feel free to reprint this article. Just include my bio as a complete statement.

Self-Doubters and Second-Guessers: you can learn how to trust and follow what is natural, fulfilling, and even fun for you in life or business. Let Reinvent Yourself: Refuse to Settle for Less in Life and Business e-book or coaching program show you how. You Are More! Empowerment Coach Joyce Shafer, author of I Don’t Want to be Your Guru, but I Have Something to Say ( Details about the program, her books and e-books, and current free weekly newsletter at

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