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How to Use Deadlines to Accomplish Your “To DO” List

How many of us have a growing “To Do” list that never seems to diminish?  Some of us use mental “To Do” lists and that keeps our minds cluttered.  So how do we de-clutter our minds and our “To Do” lists? One answer is simple, use and develop deadlines with realistic due dates.  The following how to guide will show you how to simplify your life and get things done!

Have you ever started your day by thinking of little things you want to get done before you leave for work?  Things like, empting the dish washer, throwing a load of laundry in the wash and making all beds before you leave for the office.  These are all manageable and easy chores that can be accomplished with little effort.  Yet, all of a sudden you are running late and none of the three little chores have been completed.

So what happened?  Usually, we get easily side tracked by a news story we want to watch before jumping in the shower, or you just want to finish reading the lead article in the paper, or you just want to check your Facebook quickly to see if there is anything interesting.  Before you know it, you are running late.

What if you had to get the three chores done before leaving the house because you are having friends over right after work and will not have time to straighten up when you get home? Would these chores be done before you left for work?  90% of the time the answer is yes.  Because you have a deadline, of friends coming over for dinner.  You have to complete these chores so your friends don’t think that you live in a mess.  Deadlines are good if used effectively.  How can they work for you?


1) Deadlines force you to set a goal and then focus on it.

Getting the house straightened before your friends come over is a goal, but it needs to be broken down into several steps.  Determine what the steps are and then organize them into the proper sequence to accomplish the goal.  An example is before you jump in the shower; bring the laundry basket to the laundry room and put the clothes in the washer, go straight to the kitchen pour yourself a cup of coffee, while you sip your coffee empty the dish washer but keep out a cereal bowl for your breakfast, finish breakfast and coffee and put the morning dishes in the dish washer, go back upstairs to your bedroom and make your bed, jump in the shower, get dressed, straighten the bathroom and head out the door.  All the extra steps besides just getting yourself showered and dressed is less than 15 minutes.

2) Setting a deadline helps organize your time.                 

Plan the best use of your time for getting each step done.  The example is drinking your coffee while empting the dish washer.  Laying your work clothes out the night before may save time in the morning if something needs to be ironed.  You can either iron the night before or choose another outfit without stressing out.  Plan your time.

3) Deadlines increase your productivity.

Perhaps you have been leaving all your ironing to the weekend but realize you have no ironed clothes to wear.  Preparing the night before can allow time to iron two out fits so you don’t have to worry if your friends stay late, you will have a pressed outfit by ironing two outfits the night before when you were not rushed.  Saving time with the little things adds up to big time savers over the course of the week.  Also, this may free up some extra time on the weekend to do something fun with your family.

4) Deadlines lessen your likelihood of getting distracted.

Everyone has their favorite “time wasters”—checking email, Facebook, taking one more turns playing words with friends, television, etc. Time can get away from us on those days when we think, “I’ll just sit down for a minute and see what’s on TV or online.”  If you have a task with a deadline, you are less likely to waste time on the unimportant things.

But what about setting deadlines for your everyday or weekly to do list? This is often trickier because there may not be a rush to get some things done. How do you motivate yourself to set and stick to deadlines?

A) What’s most important?

Decide what things on the list are the most important, and what is a reasonable deadline to complete them is. Actually indicate due dates and a put a star next to them, on your list. Are there multiple steps needed to complete the task? Break the goal down into multiple steps and add a deadline for each step. Watering all the plants by the end of today is a simple deadline. Organizing five years of tax returns thrown in a box is probably going to require more than one step, as well as time management.

B) Share your plan.

For some people, telling others about a deadline gives them the incentive to meet it because it holds you more accountable and helps to motivate you to meet the goal.

C) Make it better.

Consider how you can make the task or goal more pleasant or fun to accomplish.  Stop and get your favorite cup of coffee to drink while you make the client calls you have been dreading.  It may make the calls a little more pleasant and appealing.  For the bigger project or multistep goal, plan a special treat for yourself after completing it.  Perhaps go for an hour massage or take the morning off to play golf.  Planned rewards help to push us through to the end result or completed project.

D) Picture it.

Visualize the relief you will feel when the goal has been completed.  Think of the weight that will be lifted as soon as you are done.

E) Deadlines are not something to dread and avoid.

Deadlines can be used to keep us motivated and energized so we can focus on the things we want and need to accomplish.  Once each task, goal or project is completed, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride that adds to the satisfaction and achievement we feel.  Start to set deadlines and see how much more you can accomplish in a day!

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