Sometimes a list doesn’t actually help you get things done.
When there are a LOT of conflicting needs, the mess of it can impede you from actually making progress.
Next thing you know, you’re overwhelmed and retreating from the tasks altogether, or spinning your wheels on low-impact tasks.
Don’t worry, it’s totally normal. Happens to the very best of us, as I like to say.
When you are trying to juggle a lot of tasks at once, what is most important and valuable can get lost in the act of “making progress” on your standard to do list.
Here’s an exercise that I use to help me focus when I want to do ALL THE THINGS but am actually doing NONE OF THE THINGS. 😬
This exercise is a Human Centered Design tool called What’s On Your Radar.
Here’s how it works:
- Grab some sticky notes and a sharpie.
- Using a sharpie, writing big, and putting one item per sticky, create a sticky for each item on your mind.
- Do this next step on a big piece of paper or a whiteboard, if you’ve got it. Draw 3 concentric circles, the smallest inner circle is only big enough to hold 4 stickies (no more) and the outer circle as big as you need.
The inner circle represents RIGHT NOW, the middle circle is THIS WEEK, and the outer circle is Later.
- This is an optional step. If you want to further group your tasks into topics, add two lines to divide your circles into quadrants. In each quadrant (or slice), indicate the theme (for example, client getting activities, online presence, client work, business admin).
- With your radar set up, go through each sticky and pace it on the radar map. Prioritize, move and place them visually for yourself. The four (only) in the middle are your highest priority.
Relative to your time and available energy, place the stickies you can prioritize for the rest of the week.
The outer circle is for things that reveal themselves as lower priorities. As stickies get done, you can push them closer to the middle as they become next priorities.
I like this exercise to sort my list into natural priorities, and to have a clear visual of what I can accomplish & what is most important to me at this moment.
This helps me honestly assess what I am capable of, while doing more than “writing a list and chipping away at it forever”.