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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the length of your to-do list? As a busy mom trying to juggle growing my business and raising my family, I sure do.
Most days, it seems never ending. There’s always something else to be done.
But, overwhelming to-do lists can lead to paralysis. You can get so caught up in how much needs to be done that you don’t actually accomplish anything.
Then (if you’re anything like me) you feel guilty that you didn’t do anything. And you add everything to your to-do list for the morning, vowing to have a more productive day.
Except in the morning, you’re once again starting with an overwhelming list. And there’s never an end in sight…
There’s stuff to do with your kids. And your house.
But, your business needs you too. And that’s how you pay the bills.
With so many things calling out for your time and attention, what can you do?
You do the only thing you can – you set priorities for your to-do list. You tell your day what you’re going to do instead of wandering aimlessly through time.
Setting priorities is a key part of being intentional with your time.
But, it’s not always easy. So I’m going to give you five specific strategies you can use to prioritize your to-do list and find better balance.
1. Make a Must-Do List
Read quickly over your to-do list. Then, think about all the tasks that you MUST-DO.
These items are the things you just have to do. You don’t need to waste any more time thinking about whether or not you should do them, you just know that they get done.
Must-Do lists form the backbone of our Flexible Routine Block Schedule.
They are the things I’ve specifically, purposefully thought about.
I’ve streamlined these things, looking for ways to be efficient in my daily tasks.
Around here, our current Household Must-Dos are:
- Bible Time
- Meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner from our Annual Meal Plan)
- Table Chores (three times a day)
- Farm Chores (twice a day)
- Homeschool (there’s a minimum for each day, depending on the day, but school gets done.)
- Family Play Time
- Quiet Time
- 15 Minute Quick Clean
My Business Must-Dos are:
- Create a new Pin for an old post
- Spend 15 minutes marketing
- Create a Focused To-Do List with Client Work & Personal Work
These are the things I committed to doing for this season (at least on weekdays!). This list will change.
You cannot set your Must-Do List and forget it.
Instead, evaluate how things are working at least twice a year.
Once you’ve created a Must-Do list, you can stop adding these things to your daily to-do list. They are Must-Dos, and your plan for the day will account for them every day.
By removing a good chunk of your list and putting it on auto-pilot, you really help reduce overwhelm.
2. Make a Plan for Every Day
How are you going to get all of your must-dos done, plus everything else on your to-do list?
Every single day, start off by making a plan of the day. I recommend doing this at breakfast. Your kids need to be part of this meeting.
Getting everyone on board with the plans for the day helps immensely. Everyone knows what to expect.
Kids thrive with routine. When they know what they need to do, they will rise to meet your expectations.
At our Plan of the Day Meetings, we discuss:
- What’s on the Annual Meal Plan for lunch, snack, and dinner
- Who’s day it is (they get to pick the activity for Family Play Time)
- What specific school needs done
- The general order of our Flexible Routine Blocks
- Who is with whom for Sibling Play Time
- General activities the kids can do if they’re bored
- The assignments I need to complete for work, and an overview of my general work cone
Taking time to go through this at the start of each day gives my brain a break the rest of the day. I don’t have to stop and answer questions about what’s for dinner.
Everyone already knows.
My kids know how much time I need to give my business. They also know that we are going to have Family Play Time, because that is one of our Must-Dos.
Once you get your Must-Dos off your general To-Do list and integrated into your day, it’s time to really double down on prioritizing what’s left.
3. Pick Three Big Tasks
I look over all the extra things I want to get done. Then, I pick three of them. Those are my big goals for the day.
If I get them done, I’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment.
Three has been the best number for me. It’s not too much. But, it is enough that some days I have to think creatively or stay up a bit later to get it done.
I do better if I create my big three list the night before. I’m able to think about some of my business related tasks overnight, and get a jump start on things when I wake up.
This also allows me to not have to start my day making major decisions before I’m fully awake. I can just look at the list and go.
Each evening, I read through my to-do list. This has family/personal tasks and business tasks.
I look at all of them, and select only three. Not three from each list. But three.
Today, my big three were:
- Declutter the Office
- Write this Post
- Make cookies with one of the kids
Two of them were personal tasks. One was a business task.
Before I go to bed tonight, I’ll write down my big three for tomorrow.
I make it a point to get my three things done. I share them with the kids and they help me when they can. We work as a team, focusing to get those done.
Some days we easily get done with the big three, and write down a couple of more. Other days, we struggle and one may need to get carried over to tomorrow list.
4. Delegate and Delete
Now it’s time for my favorite part of prioritizing a massive to-do list. It’s time to decide what to fail at, and what someone else can do.
You do not have to do everything on your to-do list. You are not the only person who is capable.
Start by deleting things. What does not need to be done today? Cross it off your list.
When you’re living a full life, and juggling lot, some of your expectations have to get lowered. There’s now way I could keep a spotless house and work on my business and homeschool my kids.
There aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t want to be cleaning all day long.
So, I let good enough be good enough. Kid clean works. We try to keep our house where we can get it company ready in 15 minutes or less. It won’t be perfect, but it will be decent.
Note: Need help not feeling guilty about the things you AREN’T doing? Jon Acuff’s book Finish really helped me!
Now that you’ve deleted the non-essentials, take another look at your list. What can you delegate?
Can you hire a freelance writer or VA to help you out? Or a housekeeper?
There’s nothing wrong with bartering, or paying for services you need, as long as you had the money.
5. Focus on the ROI
There are days when my list still isn’t small enough by the time I get to this step. There’s just too much going on, and I want to do it all.
But I can’t. And neither can you. You’ve got to finish prioritizing.
I start with my family. They’re with me for life – whether I flop or succeed as a freelancer.
So, I pour into my family first. We play a quick game of Kingdomino or something. It’s short, and intentional.
I’ve discovered the kids do way better when I’ve spent time with them early in the day. They do a lot better at leaving me along when I work if they aren’t crying for attention.
Once I have my family taken care of, I look at my work to-dos. And I start assigning dollar values to them. The more they’re worth, the higher up on my priority list it goes.
If it has big earning potential, but isn’t tired directly to payment, I move it down a bit. If it’s a really low income earning, low potential item that I just don’t have time for, I move it completely to tomorrow. I’ll try again then.
I want to make sure that the few business tasks I do that result in more money aren’t getting pushed aside for busy work.
After You Prioritize Your To-Do List, Work Your Plan
Once you have your to-do listed prioritized, it’s time to jump in. Don’t waste any time analyzing whether or not you made the right choice. Just start working.
Work your plan and then do it again tomorrow. One day at a time, right?
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with your To-Do List? What strategies do you use to prioritize your to-do list? I’d love for you to share in the comments.
And if you know a busy mompreneur trying to juggle a growing to-do list, please share this post with her.
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.