How's your to-do list doing?alt

Too big?  Too small?  Or just right?

 Getting your punch list the right size is really important.  If the list is short but each of items on it represents a big chunk of work you can start to feel like a deer in the headlights - something is coming toward you but you don't seem to be able to move.  If the list is too detailed, the sheer size of the list can keep you from getting started - it's defeating instead of empowering.

 The Eisenhower matrix (Urgent/Important) can help you sort through the list once it's at the right level of detail, but getting and keeping a manageable list to begin with is another can of worms.   So where's the balance?

How to Break It Up

 Here are a few tricks to make that to do list edible - in bite sized chunks that you can tackle and cross off.

  1. Call the big items goals instead of to-dos.  Keep them in a separate goals list.
  2. Break down each one of the goals - in its own little list - into bite-sized pieces.  Pieces you can tackle without panic.  Pieces you can check off the list.  If the goal is a really big one, feel free to break it into a couple of levels to avoid having one of those laundry lists that feel endless.  You can always have a catch-all goal for those weird little things that come along - just call it 'Misc.'
  3. Every day or every week, depending on the size of your bites, pick the top priority individual items from your goals breakdowns for your daily or weekly to-do list.

Yes, I know, lots of lists. But when you keep the lists like this you know you're not forgetting anything while still keeping the daily to-do list manageable and your head above water. (If the number of lists seems daunting, try keeping one big list in outline form so you can collapse it down to just the goals.)  If new stuff comes in, you can change your list every day without losing sight of the goals you're trying to accomplish.

Iterate - Figure out the Right Size Pieces for You

It's an iterative process on several fronts.  You need to maintain the list - take a look at it at least daily so you don't forget things - probably you'll need to at least add the new stuff, even if you do the real prioritizing weekly.  You'll also need to play with the size of the pieces to find what's perfect for you.  Everyone works differently, but the concept is the same.  Find the breakdown that is just right for you - detailed enough that you don't forget or miss tasks, big enough that you're not writing things down just to check them off (sometimes that sounds like a good idea, but it inevitably turns your list into enough of a monster that daily maintenance is exhausting).  Before too long your list will turn from something scary to the tool that keeps you on track.

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