The Key to Conquering Your Invisible To-Do Listing and Feeling Extra Completed
Have you ever finished your day and found just a few things off your to-do list – and do you know you’ve been walking around like a crazy woman all day?
Where has the day gone With all you’ve done, how can your to-do list be so full?
Let me introduce you to your invisible to-do list. It’s the list of things you do that never make it on a to-do list – things like showering and getting ready, preparing breakfast, putting together lunches for kids, walking your dog, and preparing dinner. While these things are never on your to-do list, they can take up a lot of time (even just the activities I mentioned, that’s probably two to three hours of to-do).
If our plans don’t take into account hours of things we have to do every day, it’s no wonder we hit the road. We fill our days with plans to do the one-off things like working on the customer presentation, picking up a birthday present, or calling our friends. But these visible to-dos collide with our invisible to-dos and vie for our limited time and energy. We have over-planned without realizing it and, unsurprisingly, feel defeated if we don’t manage everything.
As a result, we wonder where our days have gone, feel defeated by how “little” we have accomplished, and go to bed because we are not so excited about getting up tomorrow. We deprive ourselves of the sense of achievement and peace of mind we should have about how much we’ve done.
Let’s change that. Here’s how to uncover and take into account your invisible to-do list so you can make more realistic plans and go to bed feeling like what you did today and motivated to do it again tomorrow.
Make the invisible visible
Take a moment to imagine the power and peace you would feel if you started your day and could see everything that needs to be done today in one place. Not just your appointments, but every single task that needs to be done from waking up to going to bed. Imagine the peace that would come if you knew these plans were realistic because they took everything into account – even the invisible to-dos.
Let’s get you there. Let’s make these invisible tasks visible.
To test this approach for today, pick three things you do most work days that never make it on your to-do list or calendar. These things usually happen in the morning before work or in the evening after work. Things like showering and getting ready, walking your dog, or bathing and sleeping with your kids.
Next, schedule these three activities on your digital calendar. Repeat them every work day depending on when you usually do them and how long they last. For example, a “walk dog” calendar for 20 minutes at 7am (and maybe 6pm).
Before you buck up and think that your life is not so routine or feels rigid, please know that I want you to be flexible about it. The point is to write these basic building blocks of your day on your calendar so that you remember to keep them in mind and not have to rely on your brain to remind yourself (hello, less mental stress!). As your days break out, you can always move these blocks of time to a time that works best on that day. Flexibility is the key.
Also, be realistic – not idealistic. When it takes 45 minutes to shower and get ready but wish it was 30, Calendar 45 minutes. The goal is to realistically plan your day and not crawl every morning while you scold yourself for taking 45 minutes.
And that’s it! Now just play it out. Not only will this exercise help you reduce your mental stress, but it will also help you plan your day more accurately. Instead of filling every waking moment with unrealistic plans to complete work projects and one-off personal tasks, you now have time for the daily basic things in your life considered and protected. This will help you avoid over-planning and see what you can realistically do in a day.
Also, doing this will help you identify where the bottlenecks are and make changes (such as finding that you did too much before work) to ask for help to resolve the clutter in your life facilitate (from a partner or a third party like Instacart) and even let some things go.
Try this out with the three things you picked today. If you like the approach, you can always build from there.
Include the invisible
While on the front end it can be frustrating to plan the invisible to-dos and realistically estimate where your time is going (of course, we want to be able to get more done), this exercise will help you realistically plan your days with it You can feel achieved by what you did – not defeated by what you didn’t do. And that, my friend, is a breakthrough magic.
Kelly Nolan is a lawyer turned time management strategist and mother. Using realistic time management strategies, she helps modern working women deal with everything on their plate with less stress and calm clarity. For Kelly’s Free How To Get Rid Of Your Overwork, Click Here.