Afraid of Your ToDo List? 6 Steps to Courage

Do you have a todo list with hundreds of seemingly important items? Does looking at that list make you want to just ignore the whole list altogether? If you answered a resounding yes to these questions, this post is for you. The following advice assumes you are using the GTD methodology. If you are not using GTD, please read this first to gain the best value from this information. I hope that these tips can help you get back on track with your GTD-fu for the new year.

1. Start With your Calendar

I was to the point where I had more than 20 todo items on my Calendar. I mistakenly concluded that all of those items were actions that MUST be done that day or my world would implode. This caused me to never look at the other actions on my context lists. If this happens too many days in a row, opportunities are lost and responsibilities will be missed.

2. Don’t Forget the Checklists

There are certain actions that you will complete each day as part of a routine, such as writing in your journal. Instead of listing these actions in your Contextual Lists, create checklists for your routines and refer to the checklist in your calender as one action. For example, the checklists I use most often are Processing, Travel, Morning, Evening and Daily.

3. Someday / Maybe

Take a good look at every item on your list and ask yourself: “Am I committed to doing this action before next week?” If the answer is no, move that item to your Someday / Maybe list. This method will only be safe if you are dedicated to reviewing your Someday / Maybe list each week as part of your Weekly Review.

4. Re-Evaluate Your Contexts

If you spend most of your time in one context, like @internet for example, you will likely have a large number of actions in that category. Think about how you can break that list down by further refining your contexts. For example, if your context with the most actions is @internet, then create @internet-5min, @internet-30min, @internet-2hours or @internet-email, @internet-browser,

5. Hide Project Actions

For each project I have a separate task in Outlook. In that task I use the following template:

Purpose and Principles:

Final ResultOutcome:

Brainstorm: (This is usually a link to a mind map)

Next Actions:

Resources / References:

I only plug in the next actions that I can realistically do within the next week. If you have tens of next actions for projects, this will help reduce your context lists dramatically.

6. Re-read GTD or Listen to the Audio Version

If you have been using GTD for a while, it may be time for a refresher. If you feel like you are too busy to
read the book again, check out the audio book.

BONUS: Use an Accountability Focused Project Management System

When you are working with others, the stress of not knowing whether the task you delegated was actually received and is being worked on can be solved using an accountability focused Project Management system.

How do you deal with your overflowing todo list?

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