Experts' tips help whittle down your to-do list

In our busy worlds of squeezing in as much as we possibly can – from getting out of the house in the morning to mailing off those thank you notes to getting the grocery shopping done (and the scads of other things in between) – how can it all be done?

Mind the distractions – that may be what’s keeping you from completing those errands on your list. For example, agreeing to do jobs that overextend you is distracting, says Melinda Walker, a therapist in Santa Fe.

Or, it could be that there are so many tasks on your to-do list that nothing gets done, says Hazel Thornton, owner of Organized For Life in Albuquerque. She specializes in helping those whom she calls “situationally disorganized.” She’s referring to folks who are usually organized but have had a big life change, such as a baby or a career change.

“I help busy people get back on track,” she says.

Here are tips for managing your time, from Walker and Thornton:

Ask yourself: “Do I need to do this now?”

Prioritize three things that must get done and work on following through.

Schedule time for whittling down your to-do list.

Even if you need to swing by the grocery store, mark it on your calendar. “You can have as many lists as you want to but until you schedule it, it’s more likely to stay on your list,” says professional organizer Hazel Thornton.

Identify which distraction habits derail your efforts.

If you’re often checking email, try setting a self-imposed rule such as not checking until noon. Same goes for phone calls – let them go to voicemail.

Pick three to five things a day to accomplish.

If you try to do too many, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure.

Break projects down.

If you need to mail off a gift, don’t forget you have to buy it, wrap it, package it for delivery and finally, get it to the post office. Don’t try to do it all in one day.

Make a “not-to-do list.”

This could include doing things that other people expect you to do. Thornton says that if it doesn’t fit your priorities, values or goals, isn’t important or urgent, then don’t do it – and don’t do it out of guilt, either.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Time for restoring helps you get done what you need to get done. “People are happy when they accomplish things,” says therapist Melinda Walker.

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