Most professionals (63%, according to LinkedIn) make to-do lists. For many people, these lists become a source of stress and unmet expectations. But with one little tweak, your to-do list can instead become a tool for creating a more balanced life.
A few years ago, I received a notepad that had a to-do list template. Instead of just one category, it had three: career, family, self.
I soon realized how brilliant this was. It is human nature, when you are nudged to create a list with multiple categories, to include at least one item in all of the suggested categories. People spend a lot of time thinking about what needs to be done at work. Sometimes family must-dos, such as kid doctor visits, will make a to-do list, but it is safe to say that “self” items seldom wind up on this planning document.
If you have a three-category to-do list, though, you will naturally start thinking up to-dos that involve nurturing yourself.
People tend to live life in weeks, so good time management means thinking through weeks before they happen. A good time for this might be Friday afternoon (see How To Make Friday The Most Productive Day Of The Week), looking forward to the next week. You don’t need an official notepad, nor a family in the traditional sense, to think in these terms. Just divide your to-do list into three categories: career, relationships, self.
After you divide your to-do list, brainstorm your top two to three priorities for each category. In the relationship category, you might decide to call a friend and go out for dinner with your spouse. In the self category, you might decide to spend an hour reading a good book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for weeks and go for a bike ride.
Once you’ve got the list, look out at the whole of the next week, and see where you can plot those items in.
To be sure, it is not 100% certain that all of your relationship and self priorities will happen. Research from IDoneThis, a productivity app, has found that 41% of to-do list items are never completed. However, creating specific, actionable plans does increase the likelihood of follow-through. Achieve at least one relationship and self “to-do” item each week, and that alone will make life feel more balanced.