Have you ever gone to CVS and bought two things and walked out of the store with a foot-long receipt? It always makes me chuckle.

Do you know what doesn’t make me chuckle? My never-ending to-do list.

I regularly do not get through my task lists despite my well intentions.

While I have found myself to be more productive while working from home, I am also a procrastinator and a perfectionist – a double-edged sword that is a recipe for getting in my own way countless times.

I used to set myself up for failure almost every day with vague goals, unclear steps and long to-do lists. The idea that I couldn’t or didn’t get through it all would weigh me down, add to my anxiety and affect my performance, demanding even more of my time.

I was overpromising and underdelivering because although I work efficiently, I am not superhuman.

Here’s what works for me as I try to tackle my to-do list each day.

  • Accept that I will never finish it all and that’s okay. If I don’t accept that I  won’t get everything done today, I will end up doing nothing. I will waste time worrying rather than executing and completing my projects.

  • Minimize my distractions (for me that’s my phone and my puppies. Going into the office has helped with the puppy situation)

  • Do the worst things first

  • Don’t be too hard on myself – I know I will never have zero unread emails and that’s okay
  • Outline the actual steps I need to take to get stuff done
  • Do the highest priority tasks first
  • Plan my day around my natural cycles, so I do the hardest work when I have the most energy, which is in the morning
  • Plan rewards and breaks throughout the day – for me that’s going to Starbucks or taking my puppies for a walk
  • Exercise, meditate or do yoga – whatever works for you. It’s important to take care of ourselves.
  • Create and maintain a master list of current goals, projects and tasks. Doing this puts my mind at ease and keep me organized. Plus I love crossing things off my lists!
  • I also recommend creating a must-do list and a like-to-do list. This can help with the feeling of being distracted, demotivated and constantly feeling like there’s more to do.
  • And the most important thing? Set boundaries. It’s important to just sometimes say to yourself “enough is enough” on a given day and call it quits for the day. Balance is key. Your work will be there tomorrow.

I love the tips on Deprocrastination.com (what a clever name for a website!). They say in order to make your to-do list less overwhelming:

  1. Hide irrelevant to-dos from sight so that they don’t stress you
  2. Mark priority tasks on your list so that you don’t have to do it in your mind
  3. Divide your list into key and bonus items
  4. Make a daily list to signal clearly to yourself what to focus on right now

You don’t have to do all four, but each does help.

They also suggest making a short, written temporary to-do list.

  1. Identify 1-4 most important tasks for today and tomorrow
  2. Write them on a paper card
  3. Place the card in front of you
  4. Record your other accomplishments

What works for you in terms of managing and tackling items on your to-do list?

Stefanie Marrone advises law firms of all sizes, professional service firms, B2B companies, recruiters and individuals on the full range of marketing and business development consulting services designed to enhance revenue, retain current clients and achieve greater brand recognition. She also serves as outsourced chief marketing officer/marketing department for small and mid-size law firms.

Over her 20-year legal marketing career, she has worked at and with a broad range of big law, mid-size and small firms, which has given her a valuable perspective of the legal industry. Connect on LinkedInTwitterYouTubeInstagram,  sign up for her email list and follow her latest writing on JD Supra.