Motherhood Matters: How to get twice as much done by cutting your to-do list in half

By April Perry

Power of Moms

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20 2014 1:50 p.m. MDT

April Perry explains how to cut your to-do list in half and get twice as much done.

April Perry

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I remember one particular day in high school — a couple of weeks before homecoming — when I felt completely stressed out by all of my responsibilities.

I had no idea how I would do it all, so I made a list — a very long list that took up every single line on my piece of paper.

Yes, getting that string of tasks out of my head felt somewhat helpful, but here’s what happened when I looked at the list:

I felt paralyzed.

I didn’t know where to start, and I knew there weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, so I simply ran around like a crazy person, checking off whatever I could and probably snapping at my family members and friends throughout the day.

Sadly, this crazy list-making habit followed me to college and into motherhood. Even now, I have an overambitious tendency to pack my lists tight. And if I don’t do something to counteract my need to achieve everything in one day, it destroys me.

My husband knows me well. He can take one look at my planner and see my nuttiness coming from a mile away. So he reminds me over and over again: “Write out your list and then cut it in half.”

That’s good advice, right?

But how do you cut your list in half? I can’t just ignore my commitments or throw away my dreams. Every item on my list is there for a reason, and I’m not going to magically feel less stressed if I attack it with a pair of scissors.

Well, fortunately, there are some powerful “ninja tricks” from David Allen’s best-seller, "Getting Things Done," that showed me the specifics of how to cut my to-do list in half and get twice as much done in the process. I’m here to show you how.

1. Scrub your list

These preliminary steps are taught in just about every time management book:

  • Delete whatever you can
  • Delegate whatever can be delegated quickly
  • Do whatever can be done in less than two minutes

Once your list is “scrubbed,” it will contain the following:

  • Things that you really want or need to do
  • Things that can only be done by you
  • Things that require your focused time and attention

2. Make a someday list

When you look at your edited list, you’ll realize that not everything needs to or can be done right now. But you don’t want to throw those ideas into oblivion, right?

So create a “someday list" that will hold all of your not-necessary-right-this-minute ideas until you’re ready for them. I use a magazine holder for paper lists and physical items, and I use an Evernote list on my phone to capture everything else.

Then I review these about once a month (or less often, if I’ve got a lot on my plate). Easy.


3. Create calendar triggers

Next, you’ll take any tasks that could be assigned to particular days and write them on your calendar.

Let’s say you just bought a new microwave that needs to be installed. You need to call your repairman and talk with him about a few other things as well, so you set a calendar trigger for next Friday, when (a) you know your schedule is open, (b) you’ll have all the information you’ll need to discuss with him and (c) your children will be playing happily with their friends.


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