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Let’s Tackle That To-Do List

We all have one, even if the things that need to get done aren’t yet written down on a piece of paper or in the Notes pages on your phone, we all have the dreaded To-Do list. Is it dreaded? Maybe not?

Conventional wisdom tells us to prioritize the most important and time-sensitive items and then identify a method for getting them done in that order while looking at the bigger projects as those to break into smaller parts, etc.


But even with all of that, we often aren’t happy with the results, or not happy with our tendency to become distracted and get NOTHING done.


So here’s a lovely trick I learned from the Martha Beck Wayfinding Coach training, it’s called the three B’s. Better, Barter or Bag.


This is how it works…..first get that list written out. Now as you review the list, look at each item to determine what actually completing the task feels like. I know, you’re asking yourself “WHAT”? See, here’s the thing….if those tasks feel bad just looking at them, if it feels like you’d rather hide for days at a time, it’s a task for more consideration.


When you look at each item on the list, ask yourself how it will feel to get each accomplished. What will it FEEL like to, say, take out the trash? Go through each item and identify those that feel good and those that don’t feel good at all.


Put a star next to the ones that feel pretty good, and a circle next to the ones that don’t quite light you up.


Then, prioritize those that feel good, you’ll get those done with little resistance or challenge.


But for those items that don’t feel so good, the ones you drew a circle around, do the 3 B’s exercise on them. The 3 Bs again are:

· Better – how can you take that task and make it better?

· Barter – is there someone else who is better equipped to complete that task? Can you trade it for something on their to-do list?

· Bag – just don’t do it.


Say for example, (this is actually one of my husband’s to-do items) on your list you is to remove a hot tub from a second floor porch. Just the thought of all it’s going to take to get that monstrosity down and out is overwhelming, and does not feel good at all. The rational side of you tells you that since it hasn’t been used in over 5 years, the chances of using it again are slim to none. But the mere thought of getting it out of the space it’s in creates a sweat…just THINKING about it.


The Better opportunities may be limited….turn it into a shade garden? Close up the porch so no one sees it? Clean it up, fill it up and start using it again? All very doubtful and not at all reasonable.


The Barter opportunities may be a bit better here. Trade the labor to get it removed with helping someone with their home improvement project? Offer to give it to anyone willing and able to get it out from the second floor and into their home in one piece?


And the Bag it idea is just not possible (wait – that’s exactly what’s happening here!) My husband has bagged this to-do list item and has just left it sitting there for over a year since he said he would get it removed.


A few other tips came into play here with this example. One, it’s always best to take big tasks and break them into smaller steps. Thinking of getting something done in one weekend, while ambitious, could be a plan for disaster or at the least, not accomplished.


Bettering tasks takes some creative thinking, but with thinking about bettering a task, you may find you have more energy to get it completed merely because you’ve basically changed to task to the opposite of what it initially felt like.


An example for bettering a task might go like this. It could be you’re not eager to clean out the overstuffed garage. Without a plan for a cleaned garage, this could feel like torture. But let’s say your thoughts on bettering it include adding shelving for storage and creating a space for a home gym. Now the task is much more palatable and possibly more exciting when you realize the potential for the cleaned out space.


The idea of bagging a to-do list item could feel impossible. How could something you’ve listed be considered bag-able? Here’s how. Let’s say the item you’re looking to bag is to organize your old family photos into digital photo albums. Those photos are only in a printed version, and the original films are nowhere to be found. AND they’ve been sitting in a box for years. Here you can bag that task, there’s nothing pressing you to do it, and it’s not a priority. So scratching it off your list for now is very doable, and in so doing, takes the pressure off getting it done off your shoulders.


So the next time you’re dreading the to-do list, take some time to consider the 3 B’s. Organizing the items into those categories will help you understand the value of each and how to get them completed or off your list. Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you@



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