Todo List Triage


When you have a big backlog of things to do, when your lists are out of control, when you feel out of control, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, the first step is to do a brain dump.

Get everything out of your head and onto one big list.

The next step is to cut that list down to size and to do that, you have to recognize that not everything on your list has to be done.

Many of the “wounded” on your list need to be left to die.

So, you might start culling your list by first figuring out which of your tasks are “must do”.

Mark them or put them on a separate list.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time figuring this out. Your gut will usually tell you the answer. But if you’re not sure about some tasks, asking yourself a few questions should help you figure things out:

  • Is this task aligned with my goals and purpose?
  • Is this a commitment to someone else/Was this assigned to me?
  • Is this important? What would happen if I didn’t do this?
  • Is this urgent? What would happen if I postponed this?
  • What are the benefits for getting this done?
  • Is there someone who is better suited to do this? Can I delegate all or part of this?
  • If I could only do three things on this list today, would I choose THIS task?

These questions should help you identify your must-do tasks and leave you with a shorter and more manageable list.

The next step is to schedule your must-do tasks.

Decide what you will do and when, and add them to your calendar and/or task list, alongside your existing commitments.

Once you’ve scheduled all of your must-do tasks, start or continue working on them. When you make some progress on your backlog, go back to your big list and go through it again.

You’ll pick up some must-do’s you might have have missed or things that have become urgent or taken on more importance. You’ll also be able to identify “nice-to-do” or “want-to-do” tasks you want to tackle next.

Because life is more than just getting your must-do’s done.

Take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of having a list that’s no longer out of control.