It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
-Henry David Thoreau
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Your Tasks have Needs

Endless to-do lists exist everywhere.  Even when you get caught up on your current tasks, more to-dos are bound to come your way.  There’s no escaping them, whether you write them down or keep them in your head.  Living our life, there is always more to do.  Finding a way to organize your to-do list can be just as individual as anything else – discovering how to make it work for you is most important.  Part of making things work for you is to make the most of your current state.

It’s not uncommon that some of us are most successful with completing certain types of tasks.  What do those tasks have in common?  What makes them easier to handle?  What’s similar between tasks you tend to avoid?  What leads you to feeling successful with your to-do list?  What’s the biggest challenge with your list?

Our current state can have a dramatic impact on how we move through or avoid our tasks.  Too often we wait until our feelings to lead us to our to-do list, “Now I feel ready to work on my list.”  Yet what happens when you are always too tired, too sick, too overwhelmed?

I challenge you to consider your tasks in a different way – match the tasks with what you are capable of right now.  Although there any number of ways to break tasks into categories, for this particular approach consider these two factors – the physical and mental requirements – for each task on your list.

It’s more likely that you get the physical tasks accomplished when you feel like you have enough energy to tackle it.  Yet, when you are struggling with consistent fatigue or pain issues, those active tasks might be put off.  This makes sense.  Although if you begin to consider your tasks according to how physical they are, you can also begin to figure out how to make the most of your energy when it’s available – you’ll know which tasks to make a priority.

Likewise when you have little to no energy, you probably have tasks that are less physically strenuous.  If you’ve identified which tasks those are, you can tackle those.  And be sure to consider if there are ways to make some tasks less physically demanding – like the drawer you can pull out completely and put it next to you on the couch.

The second category can be just as important as the physical requirements per task.  Our mental state and completing tasks has the potential to backfire – think about organizing something when you are practically brain-dead with exhaustion (which hopefully you wouldn’t do anyway).   There are tasks that we can complete almost automatically – you don’t need to be completely focused to get your dishes done.  Other tasks need more attention – we have to think and make decisions.

Both of these 2 categories are both really a spectrum – it’s generally not as simple as sedentary versus active – it’s a scale where you move between the two extremes.  I generally think of tasks as falling on one side or the other though – for simplicities sake.  I apply the same rules to the mental category too – complex versus simple (often thinking of them as intellectual vs. mindless).  Yet, even by putting tasks into these extremes brings awareness about what each task will need of my attention whether they easily fit into those extremes.  Then you also can alternate among the different categories to maintain or even increase your progress through your to-do list.

Therefore if you can match up the tasks on your list to your current state, mentally and physically, you can probably get a lot more crossed off your list.  By pairing up your tasks with your current abilities, you will also prevent the need for a long recovery – physically or emotionally – from accidentally overextending yourself.   Considering your to-do list with these factors in mind offers you the opportunity to make the most of your time and energy to get things accomplished in a sensible way.

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