How to squeeze your to-do list in your crazy busy routine

Apr 3, 2017 | Mindset & Productivity

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This crazy simple step when working on writing down your to-do list can help you be 10x more productive! This tactic helped me squeeze in my side-project in between my full time work and my personal life when I was just getting started, and I hope it can do the same for you 🙂

Today we’re talking productivity! I want to help you squeeze in all the tasks that currently are in your to do list, in between all the other things you have to do in your daily routine.

Maybe you’ve got kids running around, maybe you’ve got another job, maybe there’s just that pile of laundry that you need to take care of! In any case, you’re busy, and sometimes it’s hard to fit it in. If you only have a half hour or an hour in front of you, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. I want to help you fix this today, so you can finally get to the bottom of your to-do list.

The first thing you need to do is actually write down your to-do list for the next couple of weeks. Try to find an hour where no one is going to come and disturb you, and really focus on writing down the things that you need to get done in priority to move your business forward.

The second thing, and this is where it becomes really interesting, is I want you to go back to each single task you wrote down on your to do list, and divide it up in as many sub tasks as you possibly can.

I know it seems weird, and it can feel a bit hard, but that’s going to force you to divide your task in really tiny, tiny, tiny bits of work, that you’ll be able to squeeze into your day much more easily than you would usually.

The biggest mistake that we all make is to write on our to do list tasks that are way too big to be accomplished in the timeframe we have when we sit at our desk.

If you have only an hour to work in front of you (because your kids are taking a nap, or because you just got back from work and that’s the only time you’ve got before dinner) and you look at a task and it reads “Create a new product collection,” that’s completely overwhelming!

Realistically, you’re not going to create a new product collection in the next hour. But, when you have subtasks for each of these tasks, and for each of them you write down how long approximately you think it’s going to take you, then it becomes manageable.

When you have a little bit of time ahead to work on your handmade shop, you can look at your list and go: “Okay, this takes half an hour, I’ve got 40 minutes in front of me, I’m going to do this now.”

Instead of writing “Create a new product collection,” write down (for example):

– First subtask: “Set a date for the collection launch” – 10 minutes

– Second subtask: “Browse Pinterest for inspiration, and pin inspiring images onto a secret board” – 40 minutes

– Third subtask: “Decide on a direction for the collection, textures and colours that I’m going to be using” – 50 minutes

– And so on.

This way, when you sit at your desk, you know exactly what you have to do next, and you don’t have to wonder “Okay, how do I start this?”  You don’t really have to turn your brain on, because you’ve done the work beforehand of subdividing your tasks, and so you can really just get to work. Even if you have only 20 minutes, you can look at your list and go, “Okay, there’s a 20 minute task. There’s something that I can do right now”.

The tool I recommend you use for this is called Asana. Of course, you can always use your notebook, or your paper agenda if that’s what you like to use. Feel free to use whatever you’re comfortable with, but I really recommend you check out Asana because it’s free, you can access it online from a computer and there’s also an app for your phone so you can have it in your pocket at all times. It lets you organise your calendar with deadlines, and tasks, and of course…sub tasks!

Disclaimer: I can’t make your days longer than 24 hours 😉 But if you use this strategy I promise you’re going to be much more productive. A good thing about the subtask method is that you can use it ahead of time, so if you like to plan your week in advance (on the Sunday night for the Monday for example) then you can look at your calendar for the week, find the gaps in between all the other stuff that you have to do, look at your list, and then fill in your calendar with the sub tasks from that list.

It also works when, out of the blue, you’ve got an hour in front of you: you can take a look at your subtasks list and their estimated duration, and you can start working straight away without having to think about what you should focus on in this short amount of time.

It’s a simple but really useful tactic!

If you want to dive deeper into getting organized and more productive, you can also read this article where I explain exactly what my yearly planner looks like (+ free downloadable planner included!).

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7 Comments

  1. Lea Faulks

    Deb,
    You are an amazing person, full of wonderful & helpful ideas, generous, and so friendly. I have never come across anyone like you. I am so lucky to have found you.

    Reply
    • Deborah Engelmajer

      Hi Lea, thank you so much for the kind words I really appreciate it!

      Reply
  2. Susan

    HI Deb,
    Do you feel Asana will work for an individual, since it is marketed to organizations for collaborative efforts? I am an artist and have no need at present for the collaborative/team nature of this…otherwise it sounds good. THANKS!

    Reply
    • Deborah Engelmajer

      Hi Susan,
      I used Asana as a one-person team and it really helped in keeping me organized. But I am also not for adding more and more tools to your arsenal if you don’t feel the need for it. A pen and paper works really well too! That said, Asana is free so you can try it for a couple of weeks and see how you feel 🙂

      Reply
      • Susan

        Thanks so much Deb…totally agree with no more tools than needed and sometimes low tech is best. I may give it a shot though…I get bogged down on the way from big picture to micro-steps!

        Reply
  3. Ashleigh

    The moment I started putting estimated times with my tasks then arranging them from quickest to complete to longest, my productivity skyrocketed!

    That process also helped me realize that I’m better at tackling bigger tasks in the morning since my brain starts to turn to mush around 3:30 lol

    Great tips Deb!

    Reply
    • Deborah Engelmajer

      I am glad it’s working for you! It’s the best thing I have ever done for my own business 🙂 And you’re right, you should ALWAYS do the most important thing in the morning, before checking your emails, etc.. when your brain is still ‘fresh’ and ready to do some good work. Emails can wait til 3:30 PM !

      Reply

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