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7 Reasons Your To Do List isn’t Getting Done

Here at Fizzle, our members have no shortage of useful skills and incredible ideas. But making measurable progress day after day? Well, lots of us fall down when it comes to execution.

If you have some big dreams, you probably know what it feels like when days and weeks pass without feeling like you’ve made actual, measurable progress.

I know this feeling all too well. Before launching the Courage & Clarity podcast, I sat on the idea for the better part of year.

Don’t get me wrong, I was busy — I launched a successful course, became a mom, and kept up my share of the work here at Fizzle — but this big dream of mine started collecting dust.

Today, as a mom to an adventurous toddler, time is still in pretty short supply. You probably have some version of this in your life, and it makes it hard to get stuff done.

In pursuing the projects I’m excited about while trying not to drop any balls along the way, I have tried every single solitary scheduling method under the sun.

I’ve tried paper planners, digital planners and online tools like Trello and Asana. I’ve tried planning nothing at all, and I’ve tried planning every single minute from sun up to sundown. I’ve tried the pomodoro method, rewards-based systems, and the list goes on and on.

I usually pick up one of these new tools and get really excited. And everytime without fail, I end up losing steam.

What I’ve learned is this: we need a simple approach to laying out our work time.

It needs to be structured enough to guide us towards what matters, but flexible enough to account for “real life stuff” (BRB, as I type this my 18 month old daughter is scaling the kitchen table.)

To take a peek at my actual process for this, you can download my 15 minute planner method and start working through 4 steps for planning your week with just a pen and paper.

This 15 minute planner method was inspired by an incredibly common struggle we’ve noticed in thousands of indie entrepreneurs at Fizzle: it’s hard to prioritize the projects that actually move the needle.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re sick of seeing your most exciting projects slip onto next week’s to do list, here are 7 big reasons it’s just not getting done.

1. You need to step away from the inbox (and social media, and chores)

Our email inbox gets a bad rap, and there’s a pretty big reason that it’s a time-sucking trap: our brains are literally wired to react.

When notifications beep at us or the phone rings, it feels urgent because it’s happening right now.

But if you spend most of your day bouncing around your admin tasks, you’re basically just rolling the boulder to the top of the hill only to watch it fall back down again (and rinse & repeat, over and over.)

I know lots of us pride ourselves on “inbox zero”, or we convince ourselves that time spent on social media is an investment.

But consider this: the average person spends 28% of the workweek reading and responding to email (from The McKinsey Global Institute). As for social media, we’re talking 135 minutes a day on average.

I’m not saying you need to delete social media and quit responding to email (though I would tell you it’s okay to take a day or two!) Instead, try batching these tasks into one clump each day to conserve brain power and minimize jumping around.

And that leads me to a second reason you aren’t getting stuff done …

2. You aren’t prioritizing growth

Not too long in a team meeting, Corbett, ever the trusty CEO, started asking us a question that fundamentally shifted how I look at my projects:

“What are we going to do this week that will lead to revenue?”

I’ll totally admit it felt like a creative buzzkill to me at first (and it kind of scared me! Revenue THIS week?!)

But believe me, when you start to evaluate your projects through the lens of growth, it becomes really clear what to work on next.

Since then, I’ve noticed three major growth areas we can all focus on:

  • Growing your revenue: What can you work on right now that will lead to dollars coming in? A new product offering? Pitching more clients? Asking for more referrals? The possibilities are endless and will depend on your individual business model.
  • Growing your audience: In order to make any money, you need people to buy your thing. That means we’ve got to grow an audience — first and foremost, the email list. What strategic projects can you take on to add members to your tribe, slowly but surely, week after week?
  • Growing your skillset: You undoubtedly already have valuable expertise to share with the world, but it pays to “sharpen the saw”. We’re fans of just in time learning — aka, consuming knowledge when you really need it.

3. You’re over-scheduling

It might sound weird to say that it’s possible to schedule too much — after all, most of us have been taught that we minimize our chances of failure if we plan, plan, plan.

The breakdown comes when life, inevitably, gets in the way.

So you spend your Sunday afternoon laying out the perfect week (and it’s fun to imagine all the cool stuff you’ll get done! It seems so easy in theory!)

But then, Monday doesn’t go as planned. You get knocked off course. And now, you feel totally defeated.

When you over-schedule, you set yourself up for disappointment. If you’ve been trying to plan out every minute of the day and find yourself continually off track, consider trying to get just one thing done per large chunk (morning or afternoon).

4. You’re under-scheduling

On the flip side, winging it isn’t especially effective for most of us.

If you don’t have enough structure in your week, it might look like this: you wake up every morning unsure of what to work on first. You look at your calendar, realize you’ve got some free time, play around on Facebook, then start to feel panicked around 10am.

The concept of “batched decision making” is a game changer for many entrepreneurs. Instead of waking up each morning without a clue of what to work on, take a couple minutes on Sunday and choose just one big thing to work on each workday.

5. You need a grounding practice

I KNOW I KNOW, you’ve heard you need to meditate, drink lemon water, do yoga and write each morning. And I’m not here to tell you to do all of that if it doesn’t resonate.

I’ll come right out and tell you I’ve had some hardcore resistance to this stuff in 2017. Sleep is a precious resource in my household and I’ve got enough on my plate — why on Earth would I get up earlier for the fluffy stuff?

If you’re in that place, know that I see you and raise my coffee cup to you. Sleep is awesome, and if you need more of it, you should take it.

For me, I eventually got tired of feeling frazzled each morning and I longed to work from a place of calm knowingness. Right now, that looks like waking up just 30 minutes before my daughter to read, write, pray and express three things I’m truly grateful for.

So if you feel a persistent nervous energy simmering under the surface and can’t seem to settle down while you work, you might need some grounding.

And if you’re nodding your head right now, Chase’s Journaling course is a fantastic companion to help you find some daily direction.

6. You need some white space

If you’re someone who spent your childhood years collecting gold stars of achievement (*hand raised*), listen up!

I know how tempting it is to feel like more stuff = more productive. That’s a lie, and it’s killing your creativity.

Back in my early corporate days, I remember having a boss who would literally peek at our Google calendars — too empty, and we might get pulled into a conference room for a stern talking to.

As I climbed the ladder I got good at jamming up my calendar and sprinting around from meeting to meeting, and if I’m honest, I often enjoyed that pace.

This stuck with me, and not in a good way.

The crazy thing is that your most creative, connected and exciting ideas can’t come find you when you’re running that fast.

You can’t hear the voice of your next breakthrough whispering to you over the noise of your busy day.

At first, I was hesitant to believe this. I’ve always achieved more by simply doing more. But exerting more and more effort isn’t sustainable — instead, try doing less.

Some ways to incorporate white space into your week:

  • Take one day a week completely off.
  • Scale back your screen time. Recently I kicked my smartphone out of my bedroom and literally keep it in a drawer for the first hour of the day. No “urgent” fires or tempting dog memes first thing in the morning.
  • Carve out brainstorming time. Grab a few hours each week and don’t schedule anything. Make a date with your whiteboard, post-it notes or visualizing tool of choice, pick one topic and spend some time just thinking and using your hands.
  • 7. You’re doubting yourself (and it’s majorly misplaced!)

    Finally, there’s one more big reason you might not be getting stuff done:

    Uncertainty is getting the best of you.

    “Am I really any good at this? Do I really have what it takes to earn a living like this?” These questions pop up literally weekly in the Fizzle forums.

    I say this all the time, but on this whole business building journey no one really knows what they’re doing, not 100%. People who act otherwise are just really good at pretending 🙂

    Because you aren’t sure (and truly, you never will be totally sure!), you might start to doubt YOURSELF.

    And when you doubt yourself and your own skills, you stop posting. You stop growing. And you stop making progress.

    It’s okay to not know where all of this is leading, and it’s okay to feel unsure about the future.

    But don’t lose sight of the fact that you are really good at painting, personal finance, vegan cooking — whatever your thing is.

    So when you get scared, hit publish anyway. Have the courage to try, and the vulnerability to seek feedback to get better. Over time, this alone will separate you from the crowd.

    So there you have it: 7 big reasons your to do list might not be getting conquered. Awareness is the first step to changing habits, so keep these common traps in mind as you move forward.

    And if you want to go deeper with a 4 step process to plan your most productive week, pop over here to pick up the 15 minute planner method (including photos of my actual super-non-glamorous notebook!)

    As you head out there to bring your meaningful work into the world, remember this quote:

    “Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs


    Fizzle

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