What Really Needs To Be Done? 6 Ways To Cut Down Your To-Do List In 2 Minutes

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Everyone is busy nowadays — or at least everyone says they are busy. The word “busy” has become the most-convenient excuse to avoid just about anything we don’t want to do. Don’t want to answer a text? Just say you were busy. Don’t want to meet up with someone? Just say you’re swamped at work.

But amidst our jam-packed culture of never-ending busyness is a long-forgotten question that would change everything: Does this need to be done? Ok, actually there are two questions. The next one is, “Does this need to be done right now?” Once you apply these two questions to every task in your busy schedule, a good chunk of it will probably just fall by the wayside.

Assess your to-do list.

So how do you put these two basic questions to work in the real world, which is full of complexities and gray areas? For some people, applying those questions may be enough to return clarity to your daily routine. For others, it might be a little more complicated. If you’re struggling through tasks every day that you don’t enjoy, it’s time to think about the bigger picture. Don’t be afraid to get all philosophical — this is your life, after all. Try to identify your major goals and dreams, including anything long-term that truly matters to you. Then, look at your to-do list. How much of it relates to these big-picture goals? If none, you’ve got some serious day-to-day remodeling to do. If some of it doesn’t relate, that’s a good place to start eliminating things. Of course, not every task in your day will be thrilling. You’ll still have to pay bills. But at least your days will start to find balance between the not-so-great tasks and the fulfilling tasks.

Remember your priorities.

A common weakness in mega-busy people is proper prioritizing. You may think your priorities are in order, when in reality they are completely out of whack. For example, some people prioritize everything related to their jobs, while totally neglecting sleep, diet, exercise, socializing, etc. Other people find that, upon examining their to-do list, every single item listed is for other people. Are those really your priorities or the priorities of your friends, family, and coworkers? Sometimes the reason you feel so busy is because you are pushing yourself to do what you think is critical, while ignoring everything else.

Work in blocks of time.

Spending an entire day or week working on the same project can become daunting — especially when you feel stuck with it. At the same time, multitasking is a surefire way to half-ass everything on your to-do list. So, instead of going to either of these extremes, dedicate small blocks of time to one specific thing that needs to be done. This only works if you’re willing to turn off your phone and eliminate other distractions for that interval of time. Once an hour is up, switch to the next task and be completely done with the previous one — even if it’s not finished. Do this on a weekly basis and you’ll find more tangible progress with all of your projects.

Group tasks efficiently.

This is another way to be more efficient with your time. An obvious example would be this: Let’s say you have a list of errands to run and two of those stores are next to each other. Of course, you would visit each of those stores consecutively, instead of heading to another store in between. Finding less-obvious ways to group tasks can save you a ton of stress and have you completing your to-do list faster. For example, you might group all tasks that involve your email, or a particular software program. This means not having to log in multiple times throughout the day. In another instance, you might group together all tasks that relate to one room of the house. This way, you’re not killing so much of your time by wandering around in confusion.

Quit procrastinating.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Procrastinating is a deeply ingrained habit for some, and many times we don’t even know we’re procrastinating. For example, do you ever put off difficult work by replacing it with less urgent work? You may feel like you are being productive regardless, but you may be creating more stress and a bigger workload for the day. Another insidious type of procrastinating is over-thinking or over-planning for a certain project. Ultimately, if a project is still months away from fruition, meticulously planning ever detail is a waste of time. Things may change and you may need to adjust in the future. Thus you are getting ahead of yourself instead of working on other, more important tasks in the present.

Delegate tasks.

If you’re a parent, or even just a full-time worker, the time in your day can be usurped in the blink of an eye. Even if you don’t feel exhausted, burning the candle at both ends will eventually catch up to you. So if there is literally not enough time in the day to accomplish everything you are responsible for, it’s your job to recognize this and ask for help. Once you let your guard down, you might be surprised to find that you are surrounded by people who can help you whittle down your to-do list.