4 Tips to Minimise Your To-Do List

Hello, hello, HELLO! It’s 2017! And I’m back!

Friends and lovely readers—I know it’s been a while since I’ve written—but oh my goodness, I have so much I want to tell you! So before I jump into today’s post with tips to minimise your to-do list, I want to give you a little life update.

Looking to minimise your to-do list? Here are 4 tips to help you do LESS this year! (Plus a personal update + my thoughts on slowing down.)

I think the last time I properly told you about my life was in my November Intention Plan* when I mentioned I was going back to the States for most of November on a family visit. I knew I’d be busy visiting family, but I also planned to have a lot of free time to work on my blog, so I made some big plans.

You see … last year (especially June – October) was ALL about making big plans. I’m not sure if it shows, but I started investing more and more of myself into this blog (time, money and energy). I wrote an online course, I posted more and more on social media, I grew my mailing list, I wrote guests posts—I poured my heart and soul into this blog.

Which wasn’t a bad thing—far from it!! It was exciting to try new things, to push myself to grow and (while it was certainly crazy for a few months) it was incredibly rewarding. There’s something so satisfying about creating something out of nothing and I’m so grateful to everyone reading this. This blog and the community we’ve built together brings me so much joy!

But … I’m a firm believer that our lives come in seasons and it’s not about better or worse; instead, it’s about listening to our hearts and recognising when a change is in order.

And that’s what’s happening in my life right now 🙂

It started in November, while in the States. Shortly after arriving, I tossed my big plans out the window. I’m not able to visit very often so I wanted to make the most of my time with my family (plus my mum kept me busy—we went to Florida, New Orleans, and Atlantic City—so much food, haha!).

I had a wonderful visit, but I was sure when I got back to Australia (at the start of December) I’d get back to work. I made long to-do lists on the plane … but as soon as I landed it was like a switch flicked inside of me.

After months of go go go I felt an intense and instinctive urge to just slow down.

So I did. I ignored my to-do list and my inbox. I stayed offline. I took naps. I swam in the afternoon. I started reading. I cuddled with my husband. I called my mum. I took my first yoga class in over a year.

And let me tell you it felt SO good!

In fact, it was a wake-up call. I realised that I needed to re-evaluate and bring my life back into alignment with my values and vision because, somewhere along the line, things had gotten off track.

Mind you, this hasn’t always been easy to do, but I’m working on it—and today I want to share with you a few thoughts and tips that have been on my mind as I’ve been minimising my to-do list. As always, my life is a work in progress, but these are a few things that I’ve learned and I hope they’ll help you as well!

*PS: if you’re looking for my December Intention Plan, there isn’t one. I gave myself permission not to write one and not feel bad about it. While I love sharing personal updates about my life, I don’t like the structure of set monthly plans, so instead keep an eye out for completely random personal updates!

Looking to minimise your to-do list? Here are 4 tips to help you do LESS this year! (Plus a personal update + my thoughts on slowing down.)

ACCEPT YOUR LIMITATIONS

*NEWSFLASH*

You have limited time and energy.

While I know this appears obvious, if you’re anything like me, you might not always be very good at accepting it.

You see, I’m a hopeless optimist. This serves me well in many parts of my life … but with my to-do list? Not so much. I consistently take on more than I can comfortably handle because I’m always genuinely confident I can fit it all in—and those good intentions can lead to real trouble!

The thing is, no matter how much I want to deny it, I have to accept I have limits. Like everyone else, I have 24 hours every day (and if I don’t spend at least 8 of those hours sleeping, I’m not a happy camper!).

And realistically? I’m not (nor do I want to be) some sort of productivity guru. There is only so much I can or want to do each day.

Again, this might sound obvious, but let me tell you that really accepting my limitations was huge; when you realise just how little time you have, you realise that you need to be cutthroat with what you do with it.

FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS MOST

Which brings me to my next point—focus on what matters most! Once you accept you have limited resources, it becomes a question of priorities—how do you want to spend your precious time and energy?

Everyone will have a different answer to this question, but the most important thing is to be as honest with yourself as possible. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in expectations or to get distracted chasing big shiny goals, but if this is where your motivation comes from, it’s easy to burnout.

For example, back in October, I was planning for 2017 and I made some huge, ambitious goals for this blog and my online course sales. They were scary goals, but I’m confident if I made the commitment, I could have achieved them.

But did I want to?

When I stepped back and asked myself, “How much is enough?” I realised I didn’t really want to sacrifice my free time to achieve these goals. Instead, I want something softer and more balanced—a blend of doing work that matters while not sacrificing my values and the things that matter most to me.

I highly encourage you to do the same; to ask yourself, “How much is enough?” and to question if the sacrifices of time and energy you’re making are in line with what matters most in your life.

RELATED POST: 4 Creative Exercises to Inspire Intentional Living

EXPERIMENT WITH LETTING GO

Let me be honest with you—this is where things get tough.

In theory, it’s easy to decide what matters most, but in reality, it’s SO TOUGH to start cutting the fat. I know that often, it can feel like everything matters and there is nothing to let go of.

There’s work, and family, and social commitments, and more work, and homes to care for, and one million other things that need to be done.

But there are still only 24 hours in a day. If you don’t make an intentional decision about what to give up, then the universe will decide for you. It might be your health, or your relationships, or your career—eventually, something has got to give.

Instead of letting life happen to you, I think it’s better to sit in the driver seat and make intentional decisions about how you’re going to spend your time—and I do this by experimenting with letting go.

Trying saying no to something: postpone laundry day, skip a meeting, bow out of a project.

It could be big or small, but give yourself permission not to do something, and see what happens.

RELATED POST: 15 Things to Declutter (That Aren’t Things)

REFLECT + ADJUST COURSE

And then?

Reflect. Did the world end? How do you really feel? Relieved? Guilty? Free? Disappointed?

I’ve learned that sometimes I don’t really realise how important (or unimportant) something is until I walk away. I was supposed to run an online fundraiser way back in October and I’ve been beating myself up about it for months—but guess what?

I didn’t run it and it wasn’t really a big deal. I’ll still do it (maybe) but I’ve learned I won’t regret putting projects on the back burner to snuggle with my husband and watch a movie. Or to watch the sunset. Or to take a walk.

What’s right or wrong will be different for everyone—and of course, the extent to which we can control our schedules varies greatly. Some of us have more flexibility than others but don’t write off the power you have over your own life. Maybe it won’t happen overnight, but I believe that truly committing to minimising my to-do list is one of the most important things I can do for myself this year.

How do you feel about YOUR to-do list? Does it represent your priorities? Or are you struggling to find balance? Let me know in the comments! x

PS: This post doesn’t mean I’m giving up on blogging! Far from it! It just means I’m working to fit it organically into my life. I think you’ll notice my posts are less structured and more from the heart … hopefully! Watch this space 🙂

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38 thoughts on “4 Tips to Minimise Your To-Do List”

  1. Jennifer, I love this post however I am concerned about you. You are helping so many people and your family and it sounds like so much on your plate. Never mind the laundry, cooking and all of the things that goes into being a Mom and a wife. Please “practice what your preach”, (not that you are preaching), and take it easy. Your family and YOU come first before all of us. Slow down, get lots of sleep (with a baby?) and take care.

    Reply
    • Hello Karen! You are so kind to be thinking of me 🙂 I’ll admit I do have a bit going on and occasionaly get overwhlemed but I promised I’ve gotten much better at slowing down and saying no when I need to! Not sure if you noticed but this post is actually from last year (I think I had just found out I was pregnant when I wrote it!). When I think of how far I’ve come since then, I can see I’ve made real progress—partly out of necessity becuase my little one certainly helps set the pace of my life right now! But I really appreciate your kind words and I will try and take your advice to heart. There is always something else I can scratch from my to-do list! xx

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  2. I love your point about realizing how important (and unimportant) something is when we walk away or have some distance from it. I think here in the US we are really focused on not quitting. But sometimes, quitting is what gives us that perspective. We can always go back. We can also make room for something else – like quite time, rest, naps, swimming in the afternoon. Life isn’t quite so black and white as we sometimes think. Great post.

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    • Thank you Amy! And yes, that is definitely something I feel when I’m in the States (not sure if you know but I grew up in Maryland but move ito Australia in my early twenties). Things are changing here but *in general*, it’s a much slower culture with more emphasis on leisure and rest. Thanks for reading and hope you’re well! xx

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  3. I love this. It’s a much-used strategy of mine to “measure” my happiness/productivity/success and then tweak my priorities and see how things change. Reflection and introspection are vital tools!

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  4. Good for you! I agree, life happens in seasons. I’m glad you found your’s 🙂 You were very brave to step away from things for a little while. I’m going on vacation soon and will be taking my blog with me!

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  5. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly! I just came across your blog today and your story resonates SO much with mine! Good for you for taking the time you need to just do you. Sometimes blogging can be very demanding – we all need breaks every so often! Looking forward to seeing how you move forward from here and reading your new posts 🙂
    xx,
    Ali

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    • Hi Ali! Thanks so much for your encouraging words 🙂 It’s not always to be open and honest online (as I’m sure you know!). I’ve enjoyed my mini break but I’m planning some new posts now. Thanks for reading – and I love your blog! xx

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  6. Jennifer this post is a mirror image of what’s going on inside my head. I was teaching a yin class on Sun and as I held stillness at the very end it occurred to me, my expectations are literally impossible and by striving for that impossible I’m missing out on the joy of doing the things that I love.

    Oh, and, yay for being back on the mat after a year.

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    • Hi Jill, I’m glad I’m not alone with this! I think sometimes it’s a tough balance – dreaming big and being optimistic – but at the same time taking care of ourselves and also not setting ourselves up for failure. It’s definitely something that I think we all need to re-evaluate every once in a while. And thanks for the encouragement! xx Jen

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  7. I can totally relate to this. I talk all about intuitive & intentional living on my blog too, and yet, sometimes it’s hard to walk my talk because there’s so much I want to do! Thanks for sharing your experience. We all need to step back and reevaluate sometimes, right?!

    Reply
    • Ha ha – oh yes! This is sometimes one of the great ironies about being a simple/intentional living blogger … it’s not easy to balance everything we want to do 🙂 xx PS: your blog is GORGEOUS and I can’t wait to try out your meditations!

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  8. This is SO hard but so important. I’m always working to find ways to downsize my to dos…but usually that looks like thinking, “Oh, I’ll check ALL these off this week and then I’ll be done!” Which is sort of the opposite!

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  9. Absolutely love this. We all have different seasons in our lives that call for different paces. Good for you for listening to your gut and figuring out what is right for you in the present moment. Reflection is so important for figuring out what feels good for us without thinking as much about what other people think we should be doing.

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  10. “Experiment with letting go” really resonated with me! That is what I have been focusing on the past few weeks. My word for 2017 is “well” and that relates to wellness in all aspects of my life and it means letting go of certain things, ideas, and beliefs… Glad to see ya back Jennifer! 🙂

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  11. Good for you. Many people would have kept on pushing, but since you have the luxury to relax then why not? Life is also about enjoying ourselves and when we keep doing, we can miss the important stuff. I’ve been keeping my ‘goals’ or ‘to do’ list to a minimal and the latter is more like ‘stuff I want to remember’ which has helped me feel like I’m breathing and living!

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  12. Jennifer, you have summed up perfectly what I’ve been trying to do for the past month. I realized a mistake I was making was planning and writing a beautiful to-do list without thought to limited time and energy. Which, lead to repeated to-do lists that were never checked off completely or, sometimes, even close. Sounds crazy right? Looking back I wonder why I didn’t’ realize this sooner. Moving on and letting go! Boom! Have a wonderful weekend.

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  13. “…when you realise just how little time you have, you realise that you need to be cutthroat with what you do with it.” – CUTTHROAT?! I LOVE this sentiment. The fact that you’re taking time to listen to your body and slow down is so important. If you’re currently enjoying life without the stress and pressures of big projects and lofty goals, more power to you! As you mentioned, life moves in seasons. Kudos to you for recognizing that and adjusting your routines and attitudes accordingly so that you can best serve yourself by honoring both your time and your commitments.

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    • Hey Jess! Sorry for my (very) slow reply but I really appreciate your feedback 🙂 I was a bit worried that I was being overdramatic with the use of ‘cutthroat’, but the more I thought about it I realised how appropriate it was. After all, this is our LIVES we’re talking about!

      Thanks for reading! xx

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  14. I am really trying to spend this year being much more intentional about the direction I want my professional life to take (I have been overworked for the past 5+ years with no end in sight and I lost sight of why I was doing that, it had just become routine). A lot of my work around this has to do with identifying what’s really important to me and then putting that stuff first, which also necessarily means stepping away from other ventures/things and you’re right that it is so hard when everything feels important! I have a partner who has offered to help ease some of the burden at home, but I don’t always like the way he does things or the speed (or lack thereof) with which he completes tasks, so I have still been taking much of it on myself. I think the biggest thing for me right now is learning to let go, and learning to be ok with “good enough”, “clean enough”.

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    • Hey Emi! Oh my goodness, I can SO relate to what you said about your partner. My lovely hubby is also really helpful, but I can be a control freak so it’s definitely a process learning to accept “good enough”. The first step is definitely being mindful 🙂 Anyway, sorry for my very slow reply but I hope 2017 is going well for you so far. Thanks for reading! xx

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  15. I discovered your blog last Friday and I am so glad to hear fresh news from you. Let me tell you I took your advise from one of the blogs and “stopped waiting for the weekend”. I don’t usually hang out with friends on Sunday nights cause of work on Monday but I decided last night I’d do a movie and dinner with a gal pal and we laughed so much. I needed that after the stressful week I had. You inspire me. Thank you!

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  16. So good to hear from you!

    I actually had a similar experience in December. I left my job to prepare for our big move, and I had so many plans for getting organised and being productive, and then I spent most of my time re-drafting a novel I originally wrote a couple of years ago. Yeah, we got everything organised for the move, but it was more stressful than I’d planned. I regret nothing XD

    Reply
      • Hey! Sorry for my equally slow reply 🙂 The move went well, but I do not recommend a big move right before Christmas; we had plenty on our plates without also finding time for things like family Christmas dinners before we left!

        And congratulations on your pregnancy! How exciting 🙂

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