The to-do list

Have you ever noticed that you can tick everything off your to-do list, but still feel like you’ve got nothing done? Me too!

We value getting things ticked off the to-do list – so much so, we don’t stop to check whether what’s on the to-do list needs ticking off. We don’t take those few minutes to ask ourselves, “Should that be on the to-do list in the first place? Does it actually need to get done? What would happen if I didn’t do it? Will doing this get me closer to my goal?”

I can feel so guilty about not getting through that silly to-do list. If I don’t cross everything off and give myself a big tick (which plays to my achiever strength), I admit, it can be really demoralising for me.

When this happens, I know I need to get clear on what matters

The reality is that when you have clarity on what is important right now (and for the next month, next quarter and next year), the rest falls into place. You get shiz done! This doesn’t mean it’s not hard work; it just means you’re so clear on your goal that you know exactly what you need to do next.

A story about the good ol’ to-do list…

Take Sal, for instance. In a recent business coaching session, she revealed that she was feeling overwhelmed. When we dug a little deeper, she told me her to-do list was so long that she didn’t know where to start. Together, we worked through her list, prioritising what she needed to do right now.

Her to-do list included some hygiene jobs, revenue-creation tasks, and new ideas. To manage the overwhelm, we decided our focus (for this session) should not be on revenue generation or new ideas, but on getting her “house” in order. So, we spent some time getting crystal clear on each item on her list, then ranked them in order of priority. We crossed off some tasks, as they’d been there so long she didn’t need to worry about them anymore. We batched all the like items together, popped two hours in her diary to get them done, and, like magic, that to-do list was cleaned up! Begone, overwhelm! The beautiful thing was that the next day, Sal sent me an email saying she’d got her tasks done. Amazing what a little clarity provides, huh?

Here are two top tips to help you become crystal clear on what you are trying to achieve:

Manage the distractions

I would love to place all the blame on technology and smartphones and the way we are all connected ALL the time, because that’s how it feels sometimes, doesn’t it? But it’s up to us to put boundaries in place so we’re not constantly distracted. For me, this means having a few tech-free nights a week tech, turning off my phone and computer a few hours before bedtime, and being more mindful of the useless scrolling.

Ditch the procrastination

The other culprit of to-do list overwhelm is procrastination. We jump on Facebook to “check something”, then an hour later, we look up and think, “Shiz, where did that hour go?” Am I right? Do you do this? Sometimes, we put off the to-do list because there’s something on there we just do not want to deal with – but that thing should be the first thing you tackle! Get it done!

Are you clear on your priorities? What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at

I’m Emma, and I’m a business and executive coach who believes wholeheartedly in the potential of women. My coaching philosophy is simple- taking action leads to results- and I love working with women in business and in corporate roles to take their passion and drive and transform their professional and personal lives.

Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic, every day.

Em x

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