Thursday 5 September 2019 4:20 am

Now is the time to create your own not-to-do list

Jacqueline Shakespeare is the author of working mother’s guide In This Moment, and executive coach at business transformation consultancy Sullivan & Stanley.

Now that September is upon us, for many professionals, that means it’s back to the school run and the grind of work. The summer holidays become a mere memory as the days get shorter. 

It might sound gloomy, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be. Rather than seeing the end of summer as an ever-

expanding list of tasks that need to be completed before your next bit of time off, it can also be a time to reflect on what you can do to make your life easier.

Over the years, we gradually take on more and more responsibilities, yet we rarely take time to reflect on when we are doing too much. 

If we think back to our teenage years, most of us only had to worry about ourselves – anyone reading this who has a teenager will probably be reminded of this every day. 

Steadily and inevitably, life keeps pulling on us, sometimes through our own choice, other times not. 

We have the essential day-to-day responsibilities of developing our career and looking after our growing children. But we can also find ourselves spending more time looking after ageing relatives, investing in raising our professional profile, training for a marathon, renovating the house, or taking up an evening class. All the time, adding to the complexity of our lives.

It’s not surprising that many of us – particularly working parents – can end up feeling overwhelmed, wondering when we will ever find time to relax.

This is why it’s important to regularly reflect on whether we are doing too much. And when we can see that we are, we need to learn to share our responsibilities. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

You may be thinking that sounds easier said than done, but there are some simple steps you can follow to start doing less.

First, learn to recognise the activities that no longer need the attention they once did, or that you don’t want to give the time to anymore. Then stop doing them.

Not all activities that were once important in your life are as crucial today, but it’s easy to carry on doing them, just because you always have.

Second, try to automate as much as you can. By removing the thinking behind your day-to-day tasks, you’re freeing up time to focus on other areas of your work and personal life. 

Set up direct debits against all regular bills and create calendar events for certain tasks and activities, such as birthdays or submitting invoices.

Sometimes it can be difficult to relinquish control. But it’s important to know when to delegate and share certain responsibilities – both at home and at work. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself – sometimes “done” is more important than perfect.

And finally, create a not-to-do list. Most of us have a to-do-list, but how many of us consciously focus on the bad habits that have crept into our daily routines? 

What you don’t do determines what you can do, so it’s an effective way of creating more time. 

My own not-to-do list includes not checking work emails before I officially start my working day, or turning off notifications from apps on my phone that will inevitably distract me. They can be small changes that can make a big difference.

When you do less, you will find that you have a clearer head – one that isn’t constantly racing with everything you’re trying to do. 

Not only will it help you to work more efficiently, but it will give you the headspace and time for the things that you love doing.

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