The Top 5 Things Preventing You From Getting Stuff Done
We have running to-do lists every day, for home, personal life, for the family, for school, or work. There are various versions of to-do lists:
- Keeping your list in your mind
- Writing them down in a planner
- Inputting tasks in a to-do list app
- Jotting tasks on sticky notes
- Writing on a whiteboard/chalkboard
- Writing on a scrap piece of paper or napkin
- Making notes on your hand.
- (Insert another system I have not yet mentioned)
Regardless of whatever method is used to write down a list of desired tasks and goals, the process of writing your list down is WAY different than actually getting them done. As an overplanning mom, I can get pretty overambitious with what I would like to do versus what actually gets done. Through the years, I have learned the contributors to this discrepancy. So I am guilty of all of the factors listed below. Here are the top 5 things preventing you from getting stuff done (in no particular order):
- Too many commitments
- Unrealistic timeline
- Undefined priorities
- Broad or unattainable tasks
There are so many ways people can get distracted, slowing us down from productivity. Between social media, personal issues, family and/or friends who need us, or exciting new opportunities that pop up, it can be challenging at times to remain focused on one thing. Hearing or seeing notifications on your phone can be so tempting and addicting at times. It is easy to be working on something, and then your attention strays when you open up your e-mail inbox, or when you open up Facebook and see an interesting article or amazing photos that are posted. Likewise, if you have children, distractions can easily pop up with needing to assist them with a toy, opening up a snack, or cleaning up an accident. Other distractions can also include interesting opportunities or events that arise that shift your focus from your original goal.
My kids and I recently read a children’s book entitled, “The Great Mountain Hike” by Leslie Falconer. One particular section of the book called “Creep and Leap” speaks directly to this topic of getting distracted when trying to accomplish a goal.
Below is a video of my daughter and I reading a section of the story to further illustrate my point. If you decide to watch and listen to this bit of the story (it’s about a 10-minute video), you will see exactly why I tie it into this particular part of the blog post.
If you are short on time, you can skip over the video for now. (It’s definitely a story worth coming back to if you need a push to stay focused). I will sum up the moral of the story for you: One of the keys to getting stuff done is to stay focused on your goal or task at hand. Hold on to those binoculars or put your blinders on, and do not let the distractions take away your attention.
Too Many Commitments
Another thing that can prevent you from getting stuff done is having too many commitments. As mentioned, I am an over-planner, so I do get excited to try new crafts/projects, to be part of specific organizations, to enroll my family for several extracurricular classes, or to attend interesting events listed locally. If you are the same way, you can see how fast that calendar can fill up. Don’t get me wrong. I am pleased with everything we are a part of. The only thing is they do take up time. Filling up our calendar means less time for top goals. I am not saying commitments are a bad thing. Just be sure not to have more than what your plate can hold. I am guilty of this 100%. My husband will attest to this. I am trying hard to limit what my family can handle.
The desire to conquer that to-do list as soon as possible is normal. Sometimes we want to get things accomplished sooner than they realistically can get done. Therefore, one factor that can prevent us from accomplishing our tasks and meeting our goals is having an unrealistic timeline. Adding 10 items on the list for the day may be too much. We need to look deeper into our schedule and see what fills up our time, account for routines, and also allow for a buffer. Obviously, we cannot foresee every single minute of our day. That would be a pretty interesting super power. However, we can think more carefully about how many tasks would be considered as “stuffing our day.” Raise your hand if you have just moved tasks over to the next day and then the following day, for several days repeatedly because time just ran out each of those days. I’m raising my hand along with you. Maybe it’s overconfidence in believing that we can get that many things done in a day, OR it could be not realizing just how much time each task takes to be completed.
Another contributor to preventing us from getting things done is marking down every task and goal as equal priorities. There are times when I may have high priority for all of the bullets on my to-do list. When we have a running list of things to be done, it can get overwhelming at the thought of wanting and/or needing to do them all now. We try to complete them or juggle them all, and it takes a while to get anything checked off of the list.
In my prior job, we learned about Covey’s Time Management Grid which is a tool to use to organize and prioritize your commitments. Using this graphic organizer helps to sort out your tasks according to urgency and importance. Tasks can be sorted into the following quadrants:
- Urgent & important
- Not urgent & important
- Urgent & not important
- Not urgent & not important
Here is a link to Covey’s Time Management Grid pdf for you to save, download, and/or print. It can be turned into a weekly or daily habit of prioritizing your tasks and writing them down on multiple sheets. This can be laminated and you can use it over and over again. One thing I tried in the past was to create my whiteboard into one Time Management grid and split up the whiteboard into quadrants. I wrote down or put sticky notes into each corresponding section.
Regardless if you use this specific graphic organizer, being able to identify the importance and urgency of your tasks does help to zone in on what you need to take care of right now, and which can be saved for later. That way, your list does not seem like one giant list of tasks that all need to be done right now, leaving that overwhelming feeling.
Broad or unattainable tasks
Finally, having too vague or unattainable tasks listed on your to-do list can also be a hindrance to completion. When we write down too broad of a task, and it doesn’t get done, it can be discouraging. For example, adding “work out” on our to-do list. If we don’t have specific actions set in our minds as to what exactly needs to be done to check off this task, then it becomes an unattainable task. If we break down our general list into a more specific actionable list such as “30 minutes of pilates,” and then “25 minutes on the treadmill” then it drives us towards completing the action versus “work out.” If we write down “grocery shopping” it is not going to be as efficient of a task to finish with not having specific items in mind with what we need to shop for. Another example is if you are planning a birthday party, writing down the exact steps and tasks that need to be done, will be a lot more efficient, than just jotting down “plan for the party.” By breaking down the list into smaller steps, you will have a better vision of what exactly needs to be done and being able to check off items on the list, makes you feel like you accomplished something.
Ready, set, go!
Are you ready to get to your to-do list? It is a challenge to be efficient and to stay focused. But, by being a bit more aware of these factors that prevent us from getting stuff done, hopefully, that will help propel you forward to accomplishing your set tasks and goals.
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