Did you realize that all those little open things you need to do are really weighing you down and keeping you from being in a state of happiness and contentment? While they may seem minor, when taken as a whole, most people have so many things to do it is hard to stay organized enough to complete them all. This prevents you from reaching your maximum performance in both your work/school environment and your home life. The sense of being overwhelmed then starts a belief system inside you that confirms there is never enough of you or time in the day. Today is a good day to start a new belief system and get you on track knowing that this is a world of abundance no matter what form it takes.
This exercise will provide you with a system of staying focused and leave you more time to do the things you enjoy. I started this exercise in January of 2006 as a way of being more productive at work. It seemed that everyday when I got to work, I immediately got overwhelmed with so many things to do that I felt I didn’t accomplish anything at all. However, I did not understand it because I was busy all day long. I would also wake up in the middle of the night and remember that I either forgot to do something or needed to do something the next day. From the very beginning when I started to use this system, I never wake up at night any more nor have that little panic attack followed by anxiety for forgetting to do something important. Can’t you see how this is actually keeping you from experiencing peace?
Let me warn you before I go any further, it does require discipline. Once I made up my mind to use it, I could not live without using it any longer. The ideas are not new, they are not earth shattering, nor will they give you instant gratification, but I promise if you use this method (or any other time management method) you will be amazed by the results. Now, I know what you are saying, “This is just a standard ‘to do list’ just like all the other ones that don’t work for me.” It might look like one, but I am introducing a new way of using the age old tool by tying it directly back to ideas in this workbook. Trust me on this one, the successes I have achieved by using this method have been unbelievable. The funny thing is that I did not realize what I was developing for several months.
Ready to start?
First, start with a clean piece of paper each day and keep it with you all day long. This paper can be the template I built and included in this section, but make sure it is a hard copy. Draw a line right down the middle of the page and put 2 headings: On the left write “I Will Do Today” and “I Will Do Later” on the right. By writing those headings, you are affirming you WILL do these things and the universe will conspire with you to help you complete each item on the list.
Try this to get you started:
- Before doing anything in the morning, create your To Do List. This is the VERY first item of the day. This can be done before you leave the house, at your job before you get started, or even at school before classes start.
- Only put things on the left side of the page that you WILL do even if it means working late into the evening to complete them. Put everything else on the right side of the page.
- List EVERYTHING you need or want to do. Simply decide if is it important enough to do today (left side) or if it can wait for later (right side).
- As new “to do” items come up during the day, decide which side of the paper they belong on.
- After the first day, you will have checked off all the things on the left side and now are left with the list on the right side. Identify which items should be moved to the left side along with new items that came up the day before.
- Never overload the left side of the page. If you do, it will turn into a standard “to do list” and will probably fail. When you first start out, only list absolute must do’s; then, as you get yourself trained on this method, you can start putting more items on the left side. Just take it easy at first.
- Print your list. I suggest taking it with you during the day. I do this because more than likely I will be given additional tasks during meetings or I might think of something else that needs to get done. After items are added, pick which side of the page it belongs on.
- It is important to add the amount of time required to complete the item. Be sure to list a realistic time. This allows you to scan them quickly and pull out ones that take less time when you only have a few minutes before a class or something else you need to do.
- Do not put your list in any order. Simply write them out as you think of them.
- Be sure to make a new list every day. Do not try to use the one from the day before because the priorities may have changed and I believe that re-writing the list every day is a way of re-affirming that you will complete your tasks for that day.
- At the very bottom of the page, write 3 affirmations to include the following topics:
- Connection to Others
Once you have made your list for the first day, you will feel slightly better just for putting it on paper. A good exercise to do is a data dump where you basically jot down every single thing you can think of that you need to do first. The first time I did this I had well over 60 items. After you have all your items listed, pull out a new sheet and write them down on the daily “I WILL Do Today” list. You will need to determine what side of the paper they belong on. One thing that I noticed was that once I listed them all, I felt a sense of relief and, as I started my daily work, the list got smaller and smaller.
How I use my list throughout the day:
- If I have a task that requires me to call someone and I have to leave a voice message, check the box but CIRCLE it because it is not a completed task most of the time. If a voice message will work, then I just check it. When I am making out the list for the next day, I add all items that were circled & checked back on the new list. I then determine whether or not it needs to be done today or later.
- As emails/voicemails come in during the day, use the DOT rule:
- a) Do it – if it takes less than 3 minutes, I complete it
- b) Off-load it – delegate it to others or decide not to do it at all
- c) Task it – if it takes more than 3 minutes to complete, I write it on whichever side of the page it belongs
- Upon returning to my desk from a meeting, I check voicemails and emails and use the DOT rule above.
- Upon returning from lunch or any extended length away from my desk, I will review the list and find items that will take 5 minutes or less and complete them. I then go to the 10 minute ones and do them. I have found that by marking those things off my list, I get a sense of accomplishment and seem to be more productive the rest of the day. At first, I would continue working on a 3-4 hour tasks but about 2-3 hours of additional work would come in and nothing would get checked off. By completing the items that require less time, it keeps me focused on the task at hand and more productive.
- If I have any task or project that will take more than 2 hours, I will always write it to state something like “Start on…” or “Continue working on…” This is because it will typically take more than a day to complete.
- I put EVERYTHING on my list. It does not matter if it is a call to my mom, a dentist appointment, a bill that needs to be paid, a car wash, etc., I put it on whichever side it belongs.
- On occasion, I do not complete everything on my list. This typically happens when I do not allow enough free time. Allow plenty of “down time” to complete new tasks that get added during the day.
- Train yourself to put only the important things on the left side of the page. As you get more productive, you can add more but, at first, limit what you put on the left side.
- When you complete all the items on the left side of the page, you can start working on the right side.
- One other thing that I do at work is listen to Mozart in the background. I read somewhere that of the “Mozart Effect” where someone did a study about how listening to Mozart calmed children down at a playschool or kindergarten. They had a controlled study with Mozart in the background in one area and nothing in another. It was a long study but the results were proven over and over again that the kids reacted better with Mozart on versus other things. I had heard someone say that Beethoven was close to heaven while Mozart was heaven. So I decided to listen to Mozart during the day.
As soon as I developed the “To Do List” I did my own study to see if I could be more productive with Mozart in the background. Normally, I would say just listening to Mozart could not help; however, through my studies and understanding, I knew that there had to be a connection somewhere. After about six weeks of using my “To Do List” I decided to try listening to Mozart and documenting different days. I put “WM” (With Mozart) on the top of each page where I had Mozart playing all day. For the others, I left the top blank. To my surprise, after only two weeks of doing this, I immediately realized that I indeed was way more productive when Mozart was in the background. For the first week alone, I tried listening to it three of the five days. On the days that I listened to Mozart, I had checked off EVERYTHING on the left side and checked off at least two to three items on the right side! On days that I did not listen to Mozart (sometimes I got busy the moment I got into the office and forgot to turn it on), I did not check off all the items on the left side of the page and added more things to both sides. Now I cannot really explain the reasons why, but I can only tell you that over the next six months, this same trend held true. I was always more productive listening to Mozart versus not listening to anything.
If you would like a template of what I have used for years, just send me a message through “ask Sweetie”, social media, or simply leave a reply in this post.
NOTE: This exercise was taken from my first book, “7 Days to Inner Peace: The Building Blocks of Awareness.”