a different take on to-do lists

How do you feel about your to-do list? If I’ve learned anything about to-do lists over the past couple of years it’s that people’s relationship with them is complicated. In this post, I want to share the project list as an alternative to the to-do list. As I’ll explain, project lists are much more do-able than to-do lists (and there’s less of that horrible feeling of ‘being behind’).

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my own experience with to-do lists

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.

People’s relationship with their to-do list is often complicated (to put it mildly).

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? I started to experiment with what I called a project list as an alternative to the to-do list.

the project list as an alternative to the to-do 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 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.

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.

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).

There is a slower, gentler and more profitable way of running your business.

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an experiment

Take a moment to think or journal about these questions:

  1. Which items on your to-do list can go on an undated project list?
  2. 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.

I’d love to know whether trying project lists works for you, or whether you have another way of keeping track of (and doing) all the various tasks in your business. Send me message, I’d love to hear from you.

And, if you liked this post on project lists as an alternative to to-do lists, feel free to share it with business friends, in your newsletter or on social media.

I’d love to support you in all phases of your business. Providing clarity, focus and next steps is something that my clients tell me I’m really good at. If you’re curious about how we can work together through 1:1 mentoring, check out what I offer or send me an email–no strings attached. I have payment plans available, and flexible options for mentoring calls (30 or 60 minutes).

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