New Year, New Habits: 4 Tips for Checking Off To-Do Lists

published Jan 2, 2015
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

It’s human nature to want to take advantage of the fresh start that a new year brings and really feel some forward momentum. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to be done to get things in order but strong lists can help make even the most ambitious New Year’s goals do-able, bit by bit. Here’s how to make the most of these magically effective lists…

Include sub-tasks in your lists.

Getting things out of our heads and onto paper (or digital “paper”) quiets the nagging anxiety that can creep up, that feeling of I have so much to doooo that can make us twitchy with stress and downright irritable. Channel the energy required to remember what you have to do into actually getting it done by freeing your head space through a list. Make your list detailed, including sub-tasks. For instance, instead of just Make key lime pie for office party also write everything you have to do to be able to make that happen: buy limes and whipping cream, make crust, etc. Your detailed lists give you the info you need to combine tasks and save time.

Combine tasks to save time.

The last thing we need to do is waste time. If you know what you have to get at the store for projects by having created a complete list, you can get them all at once rather than stopping by multiple times. If you’re making more than one of something, combine these tasks as well. Sewing new curtains for two rooms, for instance? Buy all your fabric ahead of time, and parcel out the tasks across both projects into groups (for instance, all the measuring and cutting for both projects at once, before even getting out the sewing machine).

Multitask, multitask, multitask.

One excellent way to check a few items off your list — once you have a clear picture of what these items involve — is to work on a task while doing something else. Calling your great-great-aunt to wish her a happy birthday? Fold the laundry you need for your road trip while you’re on the phone. Been meaning to have a get-together with some close friends? Turn it into a post-closet-clean-out clothes-swap party. You’ll enjoy the company of loved ones and get the pleasure of finishing a task that’s probably been hanging over all of you.

Use down times to update your lists and continue planning ahead.

Your list should be a constantly evolving road map of what you have to do. Crossing things off, updating notes (ask Sue to pick up the bread), and adding to it should be happening regularly so your list is always a snapshot of where you are and what you have to do to get where you’re going. Use the time while you’re on hold with Amazon, or while you’re waiting for your bakery order to be filled to check your list again and again.