A different take on to-do lists
Or, how working with projects lists allows me to follow my energy
How do you feel about your to-do list? In my conversations with clients and business friends, the to-do list often comes up. Clients share that they don't have problems making a to-do list, but with sticking with it: "I'm behind on my to-do list. Again".
Then there's another group of people--myself included--who don't so much have trouble checking off the tasks on their to-do list, but feel burnt-out doing so. The business that they initially were so passionate about has come to feel like a series of boxes to check every day. The to-do list is taking the joy out of them--not to mention adding pressure on days that they actually need more rest, or are inspired to do other work than what's on their list.
As a recovering productivity-ninja, my relationship with my to-do list has radically changed over the past years. In my previous career in academia, and even in the early days of my business, my to-do list ruled my day.
As I started working more and more with my energy and honouring my energy in my business, my to-do list started to feel constricting.
Deciding that I had to do something on a certain day did not take into account my energy or inspiration that day. But would things still get done if I didn't put them on my to-do list with a date attached?
Enter the project list.
I began making undated lists of things that I want to do in my business. I have a list with Pinterest tasks, for instance, and I had a list when I redid my website. I have a list of blog post topics. I have a list of outreach tasks.
I know that there are some days that I feel really inspired to write. On those days I pick a task from my blog list, or write a newsletter. On other days I feel much more like doing Pinterest. And, yes, there are some days I even feel like doing admin.
I've learned to trust that my energy and inspiration will change. And leaning into that trust has led to a much more relaxed approach to the things I want to do in my business.
I quickly learned that things still got done. A few months in, and there is nothing that I didn't get to. I'm now able to trust that if there is a week (or two) when I don't get to writing anything, that's okay. I will feel like it another time.
Of course, there are still date-specific things that I need to do. I have invoices to send and taxes to do. Yet those things also lend themselves to my new approach. They are either fairly quick (sending an invoice) or have a long deadline so I can do it when I most feel like doing it (doing taxes).
Working with a project list rather than a to-do list is a step I'm taking away from productivity culture, and towards a business away from the norm
An experiment to try
which items on your to-do list can go on an undated project list?
pay attention to your energy and inspiration: can you lean into it more when it comes to (business) tasks?
If you're having trouble getting things done in your business, a project list can be a great first step. It's also worthwhile to dig a little deeper, and unpack why it's so hard for you to get certain tasks done. It certainly doesn't mean that you're a lazy slacker: I've noticed in my conversations with small business owners that there's often a lot underneath not being able to get things done.
You might ask yourself why you've set yourself certain tasks. Are they 'shoulds' or things that you really want to do? Are they too big and ambitious? Do they fit with your vision of your business? A conversation with a business mentor can be really enlightening and supportive here. I often have chats with business owners about this topic, and would love to support you if you too want to work more on this.
How do you feel about your to-do lists? Do you even use them? What works for you and what doesn’t work for you? I’d love it if you’d leave a comment on this post :)