How to Clean Up Your Task List

Imagine this… you have some tasks on your list to do today. During the day you accomplish one or two and cross them off. Great! A few new things come up so you add them to the bottom of the list. No big deal. Now repeat that for one month. Still no big deal? Let’s do the math.

Assuming you complete and add tasks on weekdays only, that’s 20 days. (We’re keeping this simple with 5 days a week x 4 weeks a month). If you complete 2 tasks each day that’s 40 completed tasks. I consider “a few” to be between 3 and 7. So let’s say you add 5 tasks to the list each day. That’s 100 tasks added. 100 tasks added - 40 tasks completed = 60 new tasks on the to do list by the end of the month. Wait… what!? That can’t be right. Let’s do the math another way.

- 2 tasks completed
+ 5 tasks added
+ 3 tasks per day

3 tasks x 20 work days = 60 more tasks on the list by the end of the month

Well shoot. That didn’t make it any different! But it probably did help explain why you’re overwhelmed by your task list and the list never seems to get finished.

I’ve had several conversations lately with people who have come up with all sorts of creative ways of managing their task lists. Enter them on the computer, rewrite them on a fancy paper, prioritize them with some system of stars or numbers. One person even designed a computer program to randomly assign themselves 10 tasks from the master list each day. This is all creative avoidance. We’re just sweeping the garbage into different shaped piles. And I know because I’ve done it many, many times!

If you really want to conquer your task list there are 2 steps to success. Just 2.

1. Admit you’re not gonna do them all.

You probably have tasks which have been on there for months… and the world hasn’t ended. If you know in your heart you are not going to do that thing, take it off the list and stop torturing yourself. Just release it. It’s not happening. Done. Move on.

2. Schedule time on your calendar to do the remaining tasks.

Either block them as individual events or schedule a few hours to “do the task list” and start knocking them out. If you’re thinking this might take days, you’re probably right. It might. You may need to use your daily drive sessions to systematically work through the task list until you get it under control. After that, continue to block tasks in your calendar so you’ll always have time to complete them. Only the ones you’re actually going to do earn a spot in the calendar.

Now pull up that task list and hit it hard! Know you can.


Enjoy the journey.