You know what it’s like, it doesn’t matter how many people pay you a compliment, it’s the one negative thing someone has said about you that you will remember and stew over. The same thought process happens automatically when we have an over full to-do list and can’t get to the bottom of it. We might have been very productive and achieved a huge amount in the day but we choose to focus only on the things still left to do. We don’t think about all of the tasks already achieved. Rather than congratulate ourselves on a job well done, we chastise ourselves for not having achieved more. We need to stop feeling guilty about not getting it all done because it is not that we haven’t been working hard. It’s just that we don’t have all of the tools we need.
Why do we feel guilty?
My belief is that for most of us, the problem occurs because we over-estimate the amount of work we can complete in the course of our day. We then feel guilty because we didn’t complete all of it, without realising that we couldn’t possible do so. In setting ourselves an impossible task, we have set ourselves up for failure. We then wonder why we don’t feel successful.
It used to be like that for me. I could not seem to feel good about all of the things I had achieved because I could only think about all of the things still left to do. It took me a long time to figure out that I was going about it all wrong. It wasn’t that I was achieving too little, it was that I was trying to achieve too much. I was then getting cross with myself for not doing something that was actually impossible.
If this sounds like you, then you are not alone. Many people I help tell me that they never seem to be able to finish everything they need to do. They say things like “If only I had more hours in the day!”
Stop feeling guilty by using this simple strategy for listing your tasks, prioritising your work and planning your time.
List all of the tasks that need to be completed in your week
I have had many different ways of doing this over the years: Post it notes, notebooks, pages in Evernote, an app on my phone, scraps of paper. There really is no right or wrong way to list your tasks. Just ensure that they are all together and you can cross them off when they are complete. I do have a thing though about rewriting my unfinished tasks every day or week so I have developed a system to prevent having to do that. Don’t prioritise your tasks in step one. Simply list them all as they come up in whatever form that takes.
Prioritise each task and determine a day to work on each one
When I am writing my plan for the week I decide what needs to be actioned first. I write these items down on the day I want/need to get them done. The most important thing to do here is to choose, at the very most, 10 things from your to-do list to complete. I have gone so far as to design my Lifewrangling Planner with only ten slots. This means that I can’t give myself too many tasks to do and make my day unmanageable.
Schedule each task into a time slot during the day
The next step is to schedule each task for completion. Decide exactly when each task will be done and write that down in your planner. This is the most important step as this is where you will discover whether you have tried to plan too many tasks for your day. If you can’t find a time slot in your planner in which to write the task, you will never find the actual time in your day in which to complete it.
Remember to leave yourself a small amount of time between each task. This way if something takes longer than anticipated, you won’t fall behind and get overwhelmed. It is also a good idea to leave a bit of time for those unexpected things that inevitably happen. This buffer will stop them throwing your whole day off course.
When you first start to do this you will discover that you can’t actually fit in all of the things you thought you were going to do. This is when you need to action the three D’s rule.
Perhaps the task does not actually have to be done today. Maybe you can delay doing it until some time in the future when you have more time, resources or energy. You can get it done then.
It’s important to remember that sometimes there are other people who are just as capable of completing a task as you are. Sometimes they will even do a better and faster job. I know that it can be difficult to delegate but at times the best way to manage these tasks is to give them to someone else.
Lastly, there are always those tasks that sounded good when you first thought of them but over time have lost some of their urgency and importance. It might just be that there are things on your list that no longer need to be done and can simply be discarded.
Work through each task in its designated time slot
All you have to do now is consult your planner, see what task needs to be completed next and work through them step by step. At first you may find that you have underestimated or overestimated the length of time a task will take. Over time your ability to determine the right length of time for a task will improve.
Finish the day feeling accomplished and guilt free
Once you have worked through all of your tasks, the last thing you need to do is have a quick look at tomorrow’s plan and add to or modify it if required. Once this is done you can head home (or off to bed if you are using the same planning tool for your after work tasks) with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Try this method of planning your day and stop feeling guilty about everything you haven’t done. Instead, feel accomplishment for everything that you have achieved.