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Tips for Taming Your Daily To-Do List

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Drop the non-essentials without feeling guilty.

Find yourself leaving the office at the end of the day without having made a dent in your to-do list?

If so, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a terrible time manager, or that you’re unfocused and can’t stay on task. The problem could simply be your to-do list. It may be filled with stuff that doesn’t need to be there.

“We have to draw the line and reassess how we’re spending our time,” writes Marina Khidekel for Thrive Global. “Chances are that some of the projects, tasks and activities we think are integral parts of our lives are actually non-essential.”

The solution: prune unnecessary items from your schedule so that you can put first things first.

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Your to-do list should contain things that really matter. Such as: preparing for an upcoming deposition, meeting with a new client, making time for exercise, attending your daughter’s softball game.

And yet, too often our daily schedules are crammed with time-consuming, energy-draining items that can be eliminated without pain.

Here are five ways to let things go, courtesy of members of the Thrive Global community:

  1. Ditch the non-essentials. “I have two filters. First: Is this task worth my time? Would I pay myself to do this task? Is it worth giving up time with my family, in my business, or doing something I love? Second: Does this task ‘spark joy?’ Does it serve my work in business? Does it light me up? Does it bring me pleasure or satisfaction? Based on these answers I can determine if my time is worth investing in this area or if I’m better served by outsourcing. For example, my hourly billable rate is higher than a gardener.” (Gillian Goerzen, author, speaker and coach, Nanaimo, BC)
  2. Become a better delegator. “Lawyers like being in control. But there are things on your personal to-do list that can just as easily be done by your in-house paralegal or an outside contractor. This frees you up to focus on lawyering, which is what you do best.” (Ernest R, attorney, South Carolina)
  3. Release things you can outsource. “I gave up cleaning years ago. I gave up laundry on a regular basis (unless there is an immediate necessity) in the last 10 years. Most recently, I gave up feeling compelled to drive my kids to all of their activities when I wasn’t tied up in a meeting or physically at work. Research shows that if we can off-load tasks, it adds to our personal happiness and well-being.” (Kristin S., social awareness entrepreneur, Lexington, KY)
  4. Cut down on Netflix. “One thing that I have given up to gain more time is watching TV. Every time I switched it on, it devoured massive chunks of my time that I could have spent studying, being out in nature, writing, or doing any other activity that could have been way more productive than just sitting and staring at the screen.” (Eugenia, life coach, Budapest, Hungary)
  5. Streamline self-grooming. “As a mom of three with two businesses, my hair and makeup routine was an hour of my time that is better spent meditating, reading or being productive in other ways. Instead, first thing in the morning I look at myself in the mirror and remind myself of my own beauty and strength — no makeup or blowout is necessary for this belief to manifest. I do occasionally get a blowout at a salon when I need it for events or appearances but not ‘making my face up’ in the morning saves so much time and pressure.” (Daniela Kelloway, entrepreneur, Toronto)

What are some things you’ve eliminated that add time to your day?

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