Work/Life Balance Part IV – The To-Do List


by Julianne Alvarez-Wish

A to-do list is a list of tasks to be completed or steps toward completing a project. DUH! We all know this – so what’s the point in going any further with this topic, right? Not so fast…

The reason we will continue is because it’s hard to argue the benefits that come from getting your commitments out of your cranium and into a consistent format.

Let’s begin by breaking down a to-do list by starting with the obvious: a to-do list should contain things that can and should be done. You say, DUH! again? You may be surprised to learn how many items wind up on to-do lists that don’t belong there – as well as how many are missed. So let’s continue on. To-do lists should have items on them that are:

  • something for which you are responsible
  • actions
  • something that can be accomplished in a short period of time…say a sitting
  • something that works toward achieving a larger goal

David Allen, in Getting Things Done, talks about the ‘next action’. He defines the next action as ‘the next physical activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion’.

For example, most people might put something on their to-do list like ‘get ready for the trip’. The reality is that this is really a project (here comes my PM background). Projects should be broken down into the activities required to complete it. ‘Get ready for the trip’ is too vague. Instead, it should be broken down into activities such as:

  • call the kennel to make reservations for dogs from x/xx to x/xx
  • take suits to the dry cleaners
  • go to the post office to stop mail delivery until x/xx

These are specific and actionable – it’s easy to determine when they are done. Notice theses are all physical activities. Breaking these projects down into physical activities will help you

  • clearly and completely think through the project
  • make it easier to complete the project
  • make the project more manageable for you

By taking this approach and have a ‘proper’ to-do list you may find you’re really not as busy as you thought you were (because you are now working smarter!), you’re better organized and have a better handle on what needs to be done!

Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Director of Communications for Our Milk Money, the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of Buy By Mom and Buy By Mom Blog. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

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