5 Tips to Help You Make Peace with Your To-Do List

Make peace with your to-do list
Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

The ideal productive week doesn’t exist. Distractions are going to happen whether we want them to or not. A loved one can get sick, you might be invited to a last-minute birthday party, or you simply might not feel like moving forward on your current projects.

If you, like me, have tried out different planners and systems, but still fail to complete the items on your list, keep reading. These tips will help you make peace with your to-do list and help you become a much happier person in the process.

1. Start the morning with the most important task on your list.

One of the reasons why we creatives fail to cross off all the items on our list is that our list is too broad in the first place. On top of that, if we start tackling the nonessentials and leave the most important tasks for later, we risk running out of energy and not completing the tasks that really matter to us. That’s why it’s important to write down the most important task for the next day every night before you go to bed.

For you, your most important task might include writing a query letter, creating content for your website, or working on materials for your first product. These can be scary tasks, but once you get them done, you’ll feel relieved. And then you’ll be able to tackle more items on your list and cross them off as you go. When you start off your day by eating that frog, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Tip: You don’t need to buy a fancy planner to write down your list. A notebook or note pad will do the job.

2. Leave room for unexpected circumstances.

Another mistake we tend to make is underestimating the time it takes for our things to get done. If a task takes eight hours to be completed, it isn’t a task anymore. It’s a project. So you should rather schedule blocks of time for your work over the course of the week, rather than trying to get it all done on one day.

Also, with a rigid schedule, there won’t be any room left for unexpected circumstances. A meeting with a client might take longer than expected, or you could wake up to a flat tire. But if you add extra time between each task and you’re realistic with your planning, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and rushed during the day.

3. Give your craft space.

We often hear the advice that we should squeeze in a few minutes here and there to practice our craft, or that we should make small pockets of time for it. But this only makes our special thing less of a priority, which can cause us to rush the process and not savor our creative time.

Something that has helped me spend more time practicing my craft is to approach it differently. Rather than trying to make it fit into my calendar/schedule, I put space around it so that it can flow.
I got inspired by Stacy Vajta, who shared the following on Instagram:

give your craft space
Photo by stacyvajta on Instagram

“I’ve had trouble carving out time to write. It seems as though my days get filled, and when I do have the time, it doesn’t quite feel right to sit at my desk and try to force the words. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, as writing is one of the things I love to do. I feel as though there is so much to write about. So why isn’t it happening?⠀

But the big aha this morning was this: I’ve been trying to shove writing into time on the clock. And ‘writing’ says, “Oh honey, I need to happen where there’s space. Spaciousness. Always.” It’s why writing flows when I’m sitting at my favorite coffee place on a Friday. Or when I’m hanging in my kitchen on a Saturday afternoon.”

Oh honey, I need to happen where there’s space. Spaciousness. Always. Click To Tweet

4. Embrace the distraction.

If you accepted an invitation to have coffee and cake in the middle of a weekday, instead of feeling guilty for not being behind your desk, enjoy the moment! Your decision has been made, and there’s no way you can be somewhere else. So you might as well enjoy the company and the cake that’s in front of you.

5. Use Noisli.

Noisli is great for those of us who like working with ambiance sounds. My favorite combo is rain and thunderstorm. It makes me feel relaxed, and it also helps me stay focused on my writing. 

The app is free, but you can also create an account to have access to more features. And one of the best things about it is that it works for desktop too!

The Takeaway.

I’ve come to realize that if I want to have a sustainable work routine and make peace with my to-do list, I need to accept the fact that there will be productive days, and there will be non-productive days.

So no matter how many items you cross off your list today, I hope you’ll allow yourself to feel okay with it. At some point, it’s best to simply call it a day.


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Author: Jessica Araus

Jessica Araus is a mixed media artist and illustrator living in the Netherlands.

12 Replies to “5 Tips to Help You Make Peace with Your To-Do List

  1. Thanks for writing this post. I can very much relate to it. As a hopeless perfectionist, I still struggle with my non-productive days all the time. But I’m trying to embrace the messy and the unexpected even though it’s hard.

    1. You’re welcome. And I hear you! The struggle is real. But the more flexibility I allow myself, the less I feel the need to fight with my to-do list. Let’s keep embracing the messy. 🙂

  2. This post SPOKE TO ME! I am a very organized person with an ample to-do list. My to-do list helps me get things done, no question, but I do have the tendency to a) overschedule and b) leave the more important/harder tasks to the end of the day so I end up not doing them at all. This is a great way to look at my to-do list with fresh eyes. Thanks!

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