How To Ace A Million Tasks on A To-Do List?

Asmita Karanje

Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

I want to finish writing my article, organize photos from our last trip, send a quick note to my boss, catch up on the COVID vaccine updates, call my mum, cook dinner and maybe a million other things before I could sleep.

Does this sound familiar? The list never ends.

We all have a million things to do and we can easily fill in all the time we have on hand, but is it worth it?

I almost always have these zillion thoughts every day in the evening after I reach home when I have a maximum of 4–5 hours (as I am not working out currently for which I am guilty as hell). But most days I can only get the top 2–3 tasks done at best — the ones which are important, top priority, and can’t do without it. And so my writing almost always assumes the last place, which is so unfair yet true.

What I have realized is that you can’t have it all — you can’t be on top of everything around you. Period. Office, news, social Media, family and household chores, personal routine and some 'me time — you can’t have it all. Some might argue you can scrape the surface through each of these tasks or multitask or focus on one each day — here’s to that logic, I have tried and trust me juggling is worse than being confused or experiencing burnout.

What do you then select, and what do you leave? It’s a tough choice and often something you need to decide on your own. No one can make that choice for you, unfortunately.

But then I looked at all of these tasks and instead of prioritising them straight away, I thought, let’s first categorise them and let’s categorise the buckets. And I have simply created three high-level buckets, unlike any classification that you’d seen in the Decision-making textbooks. So I have classified these tasks into non-negotiables, consumption and creation buckets.

Let’s look at the non-negotiables

The bucket where your routine must-do tasks would fall — cooking dinner, for example, is non-negotiable. If you have help to get this done, you are amongst the few fortunate ones, enjoy while it lasts. For others, let’s try to find easier, simpler ways to manage these routine tasks. Also, the other set of tasks that would fall here would be family time — Be it spending time with your kids or making that phone call to your parents — it’s a non-negotiable and you can’t not do it.

De-priortise the consumption bucket

The bucket where you fill yourself with all the information — be it the news you watch, YouTube videos or endless scroll through the Instagram feed. So be it information, educational or entertainment — this is a bucket where you are consuming, and you may want to restrict this incoming traffic. You want to keep your mind calm and open to newer avenues and ideas. If you regularly fill it with all the garbage out there, you would feel stressed and tired.

Work on the creation bucket when you have an active mind

The bucket where you are in the creator’s shoes. Be it an Instagram post or be it a write-up or just a reply to an office mail. When you are creating something, you are adding value to the world. And every little drop adds up. So you should maximise your time in this bucket. Also use it wisely, although I have mentioned the social media creation; use it as a promotion tool for the content you create. Read this article on Social media or asocial life where I have detailed on how even a 6-year-old today can generate content on social media, so you want to create something that is backed by experience, research, ideas and opinions preferably to something that lacks direction

Prioritise what fuels your energy

Now that we have split all those 100 things that I mentioned into three buckets, it’s now much simpler to select the bucket that we want to prioritise

We can’t touch the non-negotiables, so we are left with the other two categories — So if I categorise the tasks as mentioned earlier such as Browsing through Twitter, watching the news and reading on Medium — these can be de-prioritised. The tasks such as completing that Medium draft and posting the Instagram story to promote my article — these would fall in the creation bucket, and I should prioritise this. I want to prioritise this because I have a goal to develop a habit of writing one article daily and so the prioritisation. If you don’t have such goal, highly recommend you to read this article on goal Now that leaves a few other tasks that didn’t fall in any of the previous buckets — organising pictures, planning for Kris-Kringle and actioning the To-Do list. Unless these are important or urgent, these can be dealt on a Saturday morning or Sunday Noon or your most unproductive hour of the day.

Create an operating rhythm

It becomes a routine, and there’s an operating rhythm to what you do. You automatically switchgear between creating and consuming. You aren’t overwhelmed with a thousand things.

In Summary, when you have a million thoughts and a thousand tasks on your mind, write them down on a piece of paper, organise them in three simple buckets that suit you — mine are ‘non-negotiables’, ‘create’ and ‘consume’ but you can have your own categories as long as they don’t exceed 5 in number. Once you have your high-level categories, prioritise them in the order of preference and then select the bucket that you want to spend the most time. And keep doing consistently day after day to conquer this habit. It sounds simple but is rather difficult to follow in practice. Hope you find this technique useful.

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Thinker, self-experimenter, and a newbie writer. I write about personal growth, socio-political issues, and career advice.

Dallas, TX

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