We spent a lot of our time debriefing over college life and talking about what success looks like. Our conversations reminded me of one of my most important strategies for living a balanced life – the to-do list. I don’t use a regular old to-do list because sometimes, I feel bad when I use one.

I feel bad using a to-do list when I see the items on my to-do list that aren’t done that I’m carrying into the next day. If I’m not careful, I can beat myself up over it. Even after a very productive day, moving undone things from one day to the next doesn’t feel good to me.

The reason it doesn’t feel good to move things from one day to the next is that, well, for starters – I’m a recovering perfectionist. But the other reason is that it can feel like a broken promise to myself. Can you relate to that idea?

Why getting things done matters

When we are productive, we are often experiencing a feeling of success. Science tells us that feeling is dopamine, and it is literally a feel-good hormone. Check something off the list and get a dopamine hit. Woo hoo!!! Maybe you feel like doing a little dance now! Keeping promises to ourselves feels awesome!

Not doing things that matter? Feeling aimless? Watching things pile up around you? Feeling like you have so much to do and don’t know where to start? Oh yeah. That feels bad. Worse, it’s probably not getting you the results you want, which feels even worse. Now maybe this isn’t the case for you, but for LOTS of students (and parents) going to school amid COVID-19, they are living in this space. The solution? It’s simple. A targeted to-do list that you CAN complete each day.

The running to-do list

The running to-do list is the brainstorm list. Something pops into your head, “Oh yeah! I need to pick up coffee this week” or “I need to remember to call the insurance company”, or “Get the ladder from the garage to finish putting things into the Christmas box” (that is one from my real list!). Don’t sort it. Don’t number it. Just write it down. This list might be long, but that’s ok. It’s job is to house all of the things on your mind so it doesn’t matter how long it is.

Now, let’s break down the to-do list to make it more targeted and more manageable. It’s the 6 Most Important Things List. This idea comes from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics.

6 Most Important Things

Each day we have a finite amount of time and energy. The 6 Most Important Things list supercharges the to-do list by extracting the 6 most important or time sensitive things from your running to-do list. Big meetings go on this list along with time sensitive things (must be done today) or important things. You can have one 6 most important thing list for work and one for home, but I’ve found that I’m most productive and most balanced when I have only ONE 6 most important things list.

Will I get more done than 6 things? Very likely! But if I don’t, I know at the end of the day that I got the things done that mattered. That feels great!! The 6 most important things list is a great strategy to keep promises to ourselves.

Share your successes!

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you. Maybe you have a system you LOVE that’s working really well for you, if so, please share it!! While life is still feeling far from the way it did in early March 2020, we can all use all the help we can get, right? Let’s help each other out.

More tips like this can be found in my new book, Empowerhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B08N5LDY87Her: A Memoir and a Map to Recovering from Domestic Abuse available on Amazon. While the main theme is recovering from domestic abuse, I share lots of tips and tricks to living a balanced life of your dreams. I hope you can check it out. If you are interested in attending a zoom book talk, email me! I have some dates planned for late January to chat about the book.

All my love,

Brenda

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