Day 2: Make A List Of Everything You Want To Get Done

Then sort and cut down your lists to the bare essentials

As an avid list maker, I have lists of 1-year goals, impossible goals, projects that I’d like to start one day, projects that I am in the middle of, projects that never seem to end, skills that I’d like to learn, books that I want to read, etc. The lists seem endless, and I struggle with the idea that not all of the items on my lists have equal importance.

Strangely, it is easier for me to know where I want to end up than to know what I should start working on first. It also means I’m often slow to start projects because I want to do everything at once.

To solve this problem, I’m going through every list I have, cutting out items that are not essential to my personal mission statement or otherwise putting them on the back burner. I will then add responsibilities that I have for the various roles I have in my life, and prioritize those responsibilities.

Step 1: Gather and list out all your to-do lists, written goals, hopes and dreams into one giant list

For the past year and a half, I have been using an app called Wunderlist to record all my short-term and long-term tasks and goals. I also had a few to-dos scattered in journals and random sheets of paper which I gathered up and added to Wunderlist.

You could do this on a sheet of paper or with your favorite list app. I chose to compile everything on Wunderlist because I’ve been using this app for most of my to-dos. It also allows me to view all my tasks at once. Below is a screenshot of all my lists and some of the tasks that belong to them. Don’t worry, my life is just as exciting as my inbox would lead you to believe.

Screenshot of Wunderlist taken May 2, 2014. Fittingly, the list labeled Priority has zero tasks in it right now.

Step 2: Remove any tasks that do not fit with your mission statement(s) and are not an immediate responsibility of yours

If you find that a task can be completely eliminated—it doesn’t fit your mission statement and it isn’t your responsibility to do, then you can go ahead and remove it. There are obviously still tasks that won’t fit with your mission statement but should be kept because they are important and necessary in other ways (e.g. paying your bills, buying groceries, etc.).

The point of this exercise is to make sure the things you’ve chosen to commit to are worth your effort and relate to larger life goals. By looking at all your tasks in a single list, you can find patterns in the type of work you value.

I grouped all my tasks by type, but another way to group tasks is to associate them with roles. For example, any task that relates to my role as a student would go under that same category. The list of my blog posts ideas would belong to my role as an individual.

Step 3: Determine what you want to accomplish by the end of the month

Make a general outline of what you would ideally accomplish at the end of the month based on your updated list of tasks and your current commitments. Start by completing the phrase, “After 30 days, I will have…[fill in the blank].” You’ll notice that my goals are all written in the past tense because of this.

The number of items for each of my to-do lists after editing my lists.

I chose to organize my goals by writing out a list of my roles and associating goals to those roles, as suggested by Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I made sure not to be too specific about which tasks from my to-do list would be marked off at the end of the month. For example, one of my goals is to complete two projects from my Projects list, but I don’t specify which of my 15 projects I want to complete.

Individual

Read 3 books on my Books to Read list

Daughter

Called parents once a week

Creator

Completed 2 projects on my Projects list

Student

Studied statistics and probability

Tomorrow, I will go back and make my goals more specific. The difficulty for me will be deciding which of my many projects should be completed first.

Tasks

  1. Write down every commitment you currently have and every initiative you’d like to embark on
  2. Go through your list and eliminate any items that don’t relate to your personal mission statement
  3. Make a general outline of goals you’d like to accomplish over the course of this month. You may or may not want to reference some of the items on your edited list

What’s Next

  1. Determine the priority of the items in your to-do list
  2. Add specific tasks and subtasks to your general outline of goals