Stop us if this sounds familiar: You've got your pad of paper and you're merrily scribbling down your to-dos. And when you get to about item number ten, panic sets in. How will you ever get everything done? You know as well as we do: You won't. Not until you devise a realistic plan. "A manageable list will fuel your sense of accomplishment and allow you to get more done," says Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-mail in the Morning
. We put together a list (office duties not included) that resembles the one buried at the bottom of your purse—then asked Morgenstern to edit it. Follow her sensibly ruthless strategy, and your goals for any given day should fit on a scrap of paper no bigger than a Post-it.
What Your Current List Probably Looks Like:
• Upload vacation pics from camera
Unless it's going to bring you joy to sift through tons of blurry, off-center images to find the gems, ask another family member to do it.
• Reschedule coffee with Angela
If this is a meeting you've been putting off, ask yourself: "Do I really want to hang out with Angela?" Any plans that are tinged with guilt can't be on this list. And if it involves one of those friends who drain you because all they do is vent, just say no.
• Remind Jackie not to forget Mom's birthday
If Jackie is your sister and you know she's perfectly capable of remembering this on her own but chooses not to, don't make it your problem. It's not your job to compensate for other people's deficits.
• Check that last month's AmEx bill was paid
A lot of the things that end up on our to-do lists are driven by worry. Looking for ways to automate tasks that seem to keep popping up will eliminate so much stress. In this case, sign up for automatic bill pay on your bank's website.
• Get groceries for dinner party
The question we always ask ourselves is "How much can I do?" But the smarter question is "How little can I do without cheating?" When you're already overloaded, opt for a potluck. Learning to throw a party with minimal effort is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
Next: What your to-do list should look like