Have you ever pulled out your 3 page long to-do list, stared at it until your eyes glazed over and then panic-chosen a random task just to feel like you're doing something? Yeah, me too. We set ourselves up for frustration and failure by not narrowing down and prioritizing our constantly growing to-dos. The best way to combat To-Do List Failure Syndrome is to be intentional and suuuuuuper limited in what you choose to tackle on any day. When I make the following suggestion to my clients, it's usually met with something ranging from a mildly skeptical look to a straight-up eye roll, but hear me out: Choose two things. Get them done. That's it.
-Wait a second there, lady. I only get to do two things? I have WAY more stuff that needs to get done!
Remember, these two things are your priorities for the day. You can absolutely go above and beyond your two chosen tasks, but the point is that you're focusing on those tasks before you do anything else. Prioritizing these two tasks means you'll actually get stuff done that needs doing, instead of working on something that's not actually vital right now.
-Do you mean two things for the whole day, or two things at work and two things at home?
I usually choose two work-related tasks and then two personal/home tasks. The important thing to remember is that we're talking about tasks, not projects. "Clean the house" is a project, not a task. Break it down and choose your top two priorities, like "scrub shower" and "fold clothes" and then keep going if you have more time.
Here's how it works:
1. Keep a master to-do list
This method doesn't replace your monster master to-do list; it makes it manageable. It doesn't matter whether your master list is in your phone, your planner, or its own little notebook, just keep it somewhere that's easy for you to access and add to when you think of new stuff that's got to get done. I keep separate work and home lists as two tabs in a small notebook. You can also group tasks by type (one page for errands, another for calls to make, etc.) so you can save time by knocking out a bunch of similar tasks when it's convenient.
2. Pick your two things
Take a couple of minutes at the end of your day to scan over your master list and choose two tasks for the following day. These should be the things that will solve a problem that's been weighing on you, or are important and time sensitive.
3. Commit to your two things
Go ahead and write them down somewhere you'll see them the next day. You can use one of my free Get Two Things Done templates below. Print out your favorite, pop it in a picture frame, sheet protector, or laminate it, and poof! You've got a reusable dry erase version you can change every day.
By choosing your two tasks the day before, you can jump right in to your most important tasks. No more wasting time trying to figure out what you should be working on and piddling away half the morning on Instagram. Having the visual reminder of the two tasks you've chosen helps you stay on track and reminds you that you've made a commitment to yourself and your priorities.