To do list
Photo: Thinkstock
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

Cut It: 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

Cut It: 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

Cut It: 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

Change It: 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

Cut It: 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
The Final List:

• Call Pamela!!!

A good to-do list includes connecting with at least one friend. Maintaining relationships keeps you energized; dodging them only increases your stress. Instead of setting yourself up to explain why it took you so long to call, dive right in and get caught up.

• Kickboxing at the Y at 6

Do something for yourself—especially something physical—every day. It doesn't have to be big or time-consuming to pay off in motivation or happiness.

• Help Aunt Linda assemble bookshelves

Promised favors can be a drag, but you should follow through. You'll feel better once it's done, and Aunt Linda will know she's important to you.

• Living room redo

Have Pinterest-inspired dreams of redecorating? Break a large-scale project into smaller, less intimidating tasks and put one on your list per week. Select a single, significant element that can be changed—like the sofa—that will breathe new life into the room and start there.

• Sign up for automatic bill pay

Once you register, you'll get an e-mail from your bank when your payment is sent out, so you won't have to double-check (or triple-check) ever again.

• Book flights to San Francisco

Never put off anything that could cost you money. Plus, once you have your flights booked, you start racking up the prevacation happy points that come with looking forward to a trip.

• [Insert emergency here]

Minicrises will come up (hello, leaky bathroom faucet and surprise root canal!), so leaving a time cushion to accommodate the unexpected will help keep your plan from suddenly going out the window. No snafus? More bonus time for you.

More Advice from Julie Morgenstern


Next Story