How to conquer that to-do list

Feeling snowed under by all the activity on your to-do list? Stop stressing. Performance and Leadership coach Genevieve Matthews is here to save your day.

Have you ever had one of those days where you look at the calendar or glance at your screen and suddenly the week, month, year is almost over? Your head starts spinning and there’s still so much to do. Sound familiar? It’s a constant juggle isn’t it, and sometimes there’s a sense of guilt or disappointment. Well, what if we could change that feeling? What if we turned that feeling of dread into anticipation or a sense of excitement and drive? What if we could nail the next quarter and make it our best one yet? Or better still, what if every quarter could be amazing?

Here’s the secret – there’s an art to being organised and a science to managing priorities. Instead of thinking it’s all about time and watching the clock, let me tell you – it’s never about time. It’s always about managing your priorities. So, how do you do that? How do you do it when you sit down at your desk and there are 1000 things on the to-do list? Your head is so stuffed full, you can’t think, let alone focus and some days you feel like you can barely put a foot forward.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could sit down each day and feel focused, energised and clear about what we need to do, to move in the right direction. Let’s face it, some of us are super organised, amazing at systems and really love to-do lists. Then there are those of us who love variety, spontaneity and hey, being completely honest, we love the chaos. Maybe we even thrive on it. But achieving results, getting stuff done and articulating that to a team needs steps – a vision, goals, a plan, courage, communication and belief.

Your steps equal your activity

So, what are your priorities and what do you really want to get out of the next quarter? Or even the one after that? Get really clear on what matters the most. And here’s another little secret, it’s not just about what you want to achieve, it’s about why you want to achieve it.

When I ask Steve (CEO, Form1) what’s important to him right now he says, “The team. We have an amazing team however sometimes everything doesn’t align. I know we need to get back to being committed and relying on each other.”

That’s what Steve wants to achieve but why does he want to achieve it? “I really believe communication is the key to all facets of life,” says Steve. “Great communication makes things happen seamlessly and all stakeholders are happy. Lack of communication is a shortcut and clients are affected. This often causes frustration all the way back to the person who looks after the client and has to pick up the pieces. Technicians and office staff are affected when clear communication isn’t given. This also works from an internal perspective between suppliers and subcontractors. I know we’re all aligned when efficiencies are at a peak, works are completed with no returns and everyone is happy.”

If communication in business is a priority, what are all the ways you’re currently communicating, or not? Where are the gaps and the opportunities to improve? Often we forget the littlest things make the biggest difference. Have you or the team stopped picking up the phone? Have you stopped making time to phone a client? Have you slackened off with individual talent reviews or team mentoring sessions? Have you been rushing around so much, regular team meetings or Toolbox Talks have become a thing of the past? Or have you simply started saying, ‘I don’t have time for that.’?

People often say balance is their priority, however my belief is there’s no such thing as balance, because we end up putting too much energy into trying to juggle all the balls and invariably something drops.

When we narrow down the priorities to our top five, or maximum seven, we can be much more organised and focused. And remember, it’s always about quality not quantity. Clients often tell me their struggles about not having enough time for the kids, work, a partner or friends. The best advice I have is this, make the most of each moment you do have and stop thinking about what you’re missing out on. 

Bring your priorities to life

Here are three simple steps you can take this week to discover what your real priorities are.

Once a week get everything that’s in your head onto paper. Keep a clear list and find your big chunks – these are your main topics and most important things. Combine your personal and professional priorities. The aim here is to get everything out of your head. Do this at least once a week.

Chunk it down
Next write out all the bits and bobs that come to mind underneath each big chunk and highlight the key priorities – label them A, B and C or 1, 2, 3.

Choose – do, delete or ditch
Now ask yourself, what can I do, what can I delete and what can I ditch?

Take a close look at your list. Notice, when you’re feeling under the pump, you can look at this list and the priorities jump off the page. It feels good, doesn’t it. And everything else will be there tomorrow, next week or next month.

Remember, we’re humans, not machines or robots and it’s completely ok to feel overwhelmed, get back up and keep on rolling. It’s all about momentum and progress is more important than perfection.


Genevieve Matthews is a creative, mum and performance specialist. She loves working with teams to bring out the best in everyone. Find out more about her programs here.