Reclaim control of your time and your money

4 Simple Steps to Taming that To Do List

by Lisa Maloney

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Has your "to do" list ballooned out of control? No matter what time of year it is, there's always something waiting to be done. Once things get away from us, it doesn't take long for stress, hopelessness, frustration and resentment to set in.

Being disorganized or constantly rushed also makes it hard to save money. The best cost-cutting strategies like bargain shopping, planning ahead, and avoiding convenience/disposable items are out of your reach.

Try these four simple steps to get the terrifying "to do" list under control. It's time to reclaim your time and money!

  • Write it Down: Create one master list. Write down every single thing you can think of. If a task is so big that it seems insurmountable, try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable parts and listing them separately. For example, "clean house" should become "clean bathroom," "vacuum," "do dishes" and "fold laundry."
  • Be Ruthless: Give yourself a reasonable deadline (anywhere from a day to a week) to accomplish the very oldest goals that have been on your list for months or years. If you can't make them happen in that time, you never will. Take them off the list, say your goodbyes, and forget about them. We tend to cling to our "I'll get to it" items, so eliminating them can be hard, but seeing that list shrink is liberating.
  • Divide and Conquer: Consult your master "to do" list every morning. Copy what seems like a manageable number of items onto a separate list for that day. Up your efficiency by grouping similar chores together. For example, running all your errands together in one part of town will save you both time and gas money. Set a regular time each day to return to your master list. Everything you accomplished that day gets crossed off the master list; anything you didn't pull off will go on tomorrow's list. You'll quickly identify items that show up on your short list day after day and never get done. Go back to being ruthless. Give yourself a deadline and either do them or discard them. The key here is to keep things manageable. You're trying to set yourself up for success every day, and if you follow these steps, your list will shrink back to nothing.
  • Maintain: Once you've got your list under control, a little bit of simple maintenance will help keep it there. Set aside a certain amount of time every day (even if it's just five minutes) and use it to tackle tasks that would otherwise have gone onto the "to do" list. Prep for the next day as much as you can. Put the newspapers in the car to be taken to the recycling center, pack your school bag the night before, and save leftovers from dinner for tomorrow's money-saving sack lunch. Try to focus on just one thing at a time; the only exception to this rule is automated tasks like laundry that can be running independently while you do something else. You'll be amazed at how much time and money you save by staying on top of things!

Take the Next Step:

  • Visit the TDS library for more great ideas for managing your time and staying organized.
  • Create one master list of every single thing that you've been meaning to accomplish. If a task is so big that it seems insurmountable, break it down into smaller, more manageable parts and list them separately.

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