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The to-do list getting too long? Here’s what to do

Updated on January 17th, 2022
To-Do List

The to-do list can get out of control quickly. If you work for yourself or you have some flexibility in your schedule, you might have to push yourself to do the not-so-glamourous aspects of the job. If you know you can put something off, sometimes you will. In some ways this forces you to become your own cheerleader. If you’re not particularly excited to tackle your ever-growing to-do list, here are some ideas to help boost your motivation so can start taking action.

1. Keep your daily to-do list short and separate from your master list.

Master lists can multiply like bunnies. Looking at a long list can sometimes make you feel like you’ll never finish all of the tasks on it. Peek at the master list to figure out what tasks need to get done for the day. Only include those tasks for that particular day. Being realistic and allowing yourself ample time to finish your work is key.

2. Reward yourself.

When you knock out a bunch of work, treat yourself in some small way. Whether you just take a break and listen to a few favorite songs or catch up on your favorite T.V. show, it can help you stay motivated to keep pushing through the rest of your work.

3. Come off the hamster wheel.

Sometimes the motivation isn’t there because you’re suffering from what I call “all work and no play” syndrome. If your work feels like a constant grind, you’re probably heading toward burnout. Make sure you do things you enjoy on a regular basis because it’s easy to work yourself to death and lose sight of the big picture.

4. Work in spurts.

Set aside a certain amount of time to hammer away at a project. Afterwards, you might want to take your dog for a walk or slide in a quick workout. Or, maybe you just switch gears and tackle a different aspect of work like opening mail or responding to emails. This can help you take a break and come back fresh and ready to work.

5. Change your scenery.

Anything we do over and over again can become boring. Whether you’re in a slump or just hit a snag that slows down your progress, consider working elsewhere. Sometimes the ambiance of a coffee shop or another part of your home or office can lift your mood or allow you to reboot. It can be all you need to get yourself focused again.

6. Meet up with others.

At times, working alone or remotely can be isolating. Try to socialize daily. Whether you decide to work from a co-working space, go to the gym, or join a meetup with other freelancers or small business owners, it can be all you need to re-energize and restore some social action to your day.

7. Stick to a schedule.

Get work done when you’re most productive.  Once your energy drops, you can switch gears and still cross things off your to-do list without having to function at full throttle. I purposely schedule phone calls or handle simple emails in the afternoon just to keep working after I’ve accomplished more mentally taxing work. I might even save one last thing for night time even if I’m just clearing off my desk or writing down what I’ll do the next day.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let your master list hang over your head and  make you feel like you’re dragging around a bunch of bowling balls throughout your day. By only writing down what you can realistically accomplish, you can better focus on actually checking those items off your list. No matter how you try to get yourself motivated to tackle all of the items on it, it’s essential to have a few tricks up your sleeve. It can recharge your batteries and help you get back to work whether you’re in the mood or not.



Karen Cordaway

Karen Cordaway

Karen is a Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Writer who sharpens her skills at US News Money. You can also find her placing clients on podcasts and reading about home office organization, productivity and habits.

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