Morning <<First Name>>,
When I sat down to write this note, my original idea was something along the lines of how I’m recently “operating at 75% instead of my usual 110%.” After chatting this through with a colleague (thanks Carey :)), I realized that actually….I’m NOT operating at 75%. I am operating at 100%, just being more realistic about the time and energy I have to give.
Have I confused you yet?? Okay, let me back up. I am what you might call….ambitious, especially when it comes to dumping way too many things on my daily to-do list. I have hundreds of items on my to-do list. Hundreds! How did they get there? I have no idea, but these things pile up!
Given I want to achieve SOME semblance of balance rather than overwhelm in my life, I started trying something a few weeks ago to combat my lists (for BOTH work-things and life-things). Have I “achieved balance?” Not 100%, but I feel so much better about my to-do’s now that I thought I should share.
My process for setting more realistic daily to-do lists, so that I can LIVE a little more, baby:
Note: I use Asana which is a project management tool, but you can use this method with literally any tool. In a spreadsheet, paper and pen, whiteboard, whatever.
Start a backlog: I keep a running list of things I need to get done in a “backlog.” Anything that comes to mind, or comes across my inbox from others, gets dumped in there, whether that’s “buy a springform cake pan” or “order bird netting for the fig tree” or “reconcile invoices in Quickbooks” (all real things from my list!).
Focus on today: I have a “lane” in my Asana called “Today.” I really like this lane. This is my calm and happy lane. The key is that it’s a short lane. There’s never any more than 3 items in this lane. 4 or 5 on a day with no meetings. Actually *visually* seeing such a short lane (vs. a laundry list of literal hundreds of items) has been a huge game-changer for me.
Get ready for your literal reality check: Here is where your reality meets your to-do list: Before each work day, I take a look at my calendar. Am I in 5 meetings that day and also have to run an errand? That means I’ll realistically only get one meaty task done that day, so I bump some items off my list. If it’s stuff that might block others, I give them a heads up. (Ideally, I should do this triage part at the top of each week rather than daily…because planning. But baby steps.)
This idea isn’t novel. I used to work in tech (fun fact!) and we did this all the time -- it’s called the kanban method, in which a backlog is kept, and items that are ready for you to tackle and shuffled into your ‘in progress’ column, and your “work in progress” is extremely limited.
I was hesitant to write about yet another “productivity hack” in this newsletter because it feels very unsexy and boring in the context of downtime and FUN but…I’m not actually trying to be more productive, I’m trying to be more realistic. So that I can enjoy my life and my downtime a little more!
I listened to this great podcast ep over the weekend with writer Oliver Burkeman who noted that it’s been shown that the more efficient and productive we become with tasks, the MORE we take on. I’m hopeful that this new method might help me combat that: I’ll put items on my list that feel realistic, get them done, and...that’s it! I’m done. No more peeking at the backlog.
P.S. Want to get more out of your downtime? Reply to this email with any questions you have in regards to entertainment, relaxation, shopping, books, activities, or more and we may answer it in an upcoming experimental email series (sign up here!). Think “I need more middle-brow TV shows” or “I’m going to a cabin in the woods with no WiFi. What are all the analog activities”? Excited to solve your Downtime Dilemma. 🕵️