Tame your to-do list with the 4 Bs!

091013 todo list
091013 todo list

We’ve all got to-do lists a mile long. Sometimes something languishes on my to-do list for months.  Or years!  There are just those tasks that I never get around to, and the to-do list starts to feel like a big shame list.  How can it be a week/month/year later and I still have those things on my list?  Ugh. What does your to do list look like?  Does it make you go, “Ugh”?  Then it’s probably not working as well for you as you’d like.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to cross things off a list – it feels great!  And I bet you love checking stuff off too. But strangely, as soon as I cross something off, there are three new things to add.  It’s never done.  It’s never empty.  There’s always more to do.  It’s like the little brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice that keep multiplying and multiplying.

So I have some tips for taming that to-do list, since it’s probably not going away.  These come from my mentor, Martha Beck – and she’s one smart cookie!

They’re easy to remember – the Four Bs.

1. Bag it.  This is a really good one.  We have a lot of shoulds – I should go to yoga, I should go to that party, I should should should rearrange the towels in the linen closet.  Sometimes we even tell ourselves we have to.  I have to join that committee.  I have to do this myself so it gets done right.  Actually, you don’t have to do much of anything.  There might be consequences if you don’t, but it’s very freeing to know you don’t have to.  You can choose to.  Choose to join the committee because it’s important to you.  Or bag it and say no, you just don’t have the capacity to do that right now.   You have a choice!  And if you’re sleep deprived like most humans on the planet these days, maybe choose sleep.  I regularly bag all kinds of activities in order to get the rest my body craves.  And so far the world has not exploded because of it.

2. Barter it.  See if you can find someone who loves to do that thing you can’t stand.  This works great both at home and at work.  I do all the dishes, but my husband does all the laundry. I feel like I’m getting a great deal!  Someone else at work might love to organize, and you love to write and edit.  Can you barter certain tasks?  Can you trade?  You can also hire out tasks as well.  If it’s not getting done, and it’s stressing you out, maybe it’s worth it to have someone take care of it for you.

3. Better it.  This is my absolute favorite.  This works for anything.  Face it, there’s a lot of stuff on our to-do lists that we don’t want to bag, and that we haven’t figured out how to barter.  We’re gonna do them ourselves.  So how can we better it?  Think about your task and something you can do before, during or afterward to help you enjoy it more.  Can you play music?  Take a walk in a park before or afterward?  Buy yourself a little treat when you finish the task?  Oh, and here’s the cool thing about treats: Our mind processes all treats about the same.  A treat is a treat.  So a pack of gum or a magazine at the checkout to better your trip to the grocery is just as effective as something much bigger that might cost way more money, like a new pair of shoes.  Lots of small treats all day long are super-great for your brain, and help you stay happy while you’re doing your regular routine.   Take the dogs for a walk.  Enjoy a hot bath.  Play a game with your kids.  Look for ways to make others smile while you’re getting your work done.

4. Batch it.  I love this one too.  This is great for getting a whole lot of similar tasks done, like emails or bills or some other project.  Sometimes it’s helpful to block out a chunk of time and just do it all in one fell swoop.  Take a Saturday morning to straighten your closet. Block out an hour to clear up your desk.  Set a timer.  Avoid distractions. And then reward yourself with a treat when you’re done!

I love to help people with big dreams, but the reality is that most of our daily life is full of regular tasks, so enjoying those and really savoring all the little stuff makes such a difference in our energy levels and then gives us the boost we’re looking for to accomplish something big like writing a novel or changing careers.  So give these simple 4 Bs a try – let me know how you do by emailing me at carla@livingwildandprecious.com or leaving a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!