How to Tame Your Tyrannical To-Do List


In last week's Huffington Post article, I shared three symptoms that revealed when it's time to quarantine your to-do list.

This week, I'm sharing a system that will make your to-do list work for you.

Pressure to stay ahead is a common reason many successful professionals are on the verge of burning out. They create perpetual, out-of-control to-lists that never end.

The problem with never-ending to-do lists is that they don't give you time to pause and celebrate the power of completion. Acknowledging your hard work is often the fuel that keeps you moving forward when times get tough.

You don't want your to-do list to work against you. You want it to work for you!

The key is to set up a system so you can check items off your to-do list, and by day's end be finished.

(You know, I'm all about setting you up for your success.)

Here are 5 rules to follow to tame your tyrannical to-do list:

1. Do a "brain dump."

Get a piece of paper and pen, and dump everything you want and need to get done at work out on to the paper. (For today, let's keep the focus on work stuff. You can easily apply all of this to your everyday life items, too.) It's stressful to try to remember everything you've got on your plate. Let it go. Dump it all out here. You got to clean out the closet and see what you've got in there, right?

2. Say no to create time, energy, and space.

After you get all of your tasks out of your head, look at what's on your plate. Do you really need to do all of this? We live in a world where the message is, "more is better." But the reality is, sometimes less is more. You can accomplish more when you can focus. To identify what to focus on, you need to learn to say no to tasks that don't move you forward or are not aligned with your bigger vision. Saying no creates time, energy and space to do what's really important. Remove items that are no longer important to you. Create a "parking lot" and move less pressing items there so you can work on them later.

3. Assign a meaning to each to-do item.

In my Productivity Booster System, I coach my private clients to give meaning to each item. The Clarifying Priority Tool helps them layout each to-do item in a grid to identify which items are time sensitive. The grid also identifies which tasks are aligned with their goals.

4. Break every task into small steps.

This is what people who get things done do really well. They break each task, goal, and action item into smaller steps. Many people get paralyzed when they don't know what to do next. When you break a task down to smaller action steps, you know exactly what your next move is.

5. Schedule time on your calendar for each task.

Pretend your calendar as your virtual personal assistant (PA). Your PA knows exactly where you are, what you are doing, and when you are doing it. At the beginning of the week (I recommend to do this on Sunday), schedule each action item on your calendar so when Monday morning comes, you will know each move to make without thinking. So much time is wasted on over-thinking, rather than on focusing time and energy on actual doing.

This system might feel like a lot to do in the beginning. There is always a learning curve. The more you practice, the easier the system gets. The key is to build an efficient system so you can spend more time, energy, and space on taking action. And action is how your to-do list gets cleared by the end of the workday.

Now it's your turn to clear-off your to-do list...

Share your responses with me in the comments section: What is one thing you absolutely want to get done now, and how are you going to move forward to accomplish it?

I help my clients get out of that rut of living someone else's version of success. You can discover your definition of success by using this tool.


Nozomi Morgan, MBA, is a certified Executive Coach and the Founder and President of Michiki Morgan Worldwide LLC. Addition to coaching, she speaks and trains on leadership, career, professional development and cross-cultural business communication.

Visit to learn more about Nozomi . There, you can download the free Leadership Discovery Tool. Follow Nozomi on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.