Despite our best intentions sometimes work piles up, whether because we took a day or two off, deadlines ended up on top of each other or just because it’s been a crazy summer. I have faced down some giant to-do lists lately (and have another one coming up this week as I prep for the girl’s seventh birthday) so it seemed like a good time to talk about how to deal with it and how I get through a massive to-do list.
Write and Evaluate Your List
The first step, naturally, is writing the list. Take five or ten minutes and write down everything you can think of that needs to be dealt with. Even little things, or steps of a project (sometimes I will put writing the thing, editing, sending an email, all as separate steps even though it’s the same project).
Look back at the list and group together items that make sense together (like all those tasks for the same project, or all the chores or outside the house errands or all the emails) and then rank your tasks or group of tasks by priority.
What’s essential to get done today? Where do you have deadlines, commitments to other people, bills that are due and have to be paid today, whatever.
Managing Time with a Massive To-Do List
When I have a huge to-do list to work through, I like to estimate how long I think each task will take or how much time I’m willing to give each task.
So, 10 minutes to send that email, 20 minutes for a quick draft of a blog post, 30 minutes to research that other article, and so on.
Because I like pomodoros, I often think in 25 minute bursts, so if something will take a long time I usually give it 25 or 30 minutes, do as much as I can in that period, go on to something else and come back to it later.
Then I use my timer and go through the list. Now it’s like a race. Can I get that task done in 10 minutes instead of 15? (Often, yes.) Some things will take longer, of course, and you’ll probably run out of energy or time before you run out of list, but this method assures that you’re getting the most important things done and making a lot of progress in a short period of time.
How do you deal with a massive to-do list? Any tips for powering through a lot of work? Read more on the subject of super-productive days, as well as limiting expectations when you’re super busy. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of it.