Text on picture: What did you think of when you read "to-do list"

What I mean when I say “to-do list”, isn’t usually what people hear

I’ve realized that what I mean when I say “to-do list” isn’t usually what people hear.

What did you think of when you read “to-do list”? Type it in the comments below before you continue reading.

Generally, people think of a “to-do list” as the piece of paper with the tasks or projects that they hope to accomplish for the day. Or that list in their head. Or it’s the exhausting list of EVERYTHING that needs to get done.

For me, a “to-do list” is a system.

This system encompasses my intentions, goals, quarterly plans, current month plans, week plans, and today’s plans.

It’s the reason I’m able to regularly send out birthday cards, stay on top of bookkeeping, and a lot of other things.

It’s the reason I have fewer things to do, but the things I do have more impact.

It helps me manage my time and expectations.

This system didn’t appear overnight and solve many of my time and attention problems.

The first version that worked well for me developed over the course of a year.

In that year, there were a couple of ways I kept track of things that didn’t last long, but they were important for me to try. They helped me figure out what didn’t work for me, and what about them did work for me.

This important period of trying things that ultimately didn’t work led me to a system I used for about 18 months. Then it needed to be adjusted.

A system will work well for me for 18 to 24 months, and then I need to tweak something. One tweak was to move my system from all paper to a OneNote and paper combination. Most recently, it was a format change in OneNote.

If your to-do list is one piece of paper with today’s tasks on it or a LONG list of everything, then I encourage you to consider what your to-do list system might look like.

Start by thinking about what you will remember to check daily or already check daily.

Other questions to consider: Is it all on paper? Maybe in a notebook or a binder? Is it all electronic? Does it sync to your phone? Is it a hybrid of paper and electronic? What part lives where? How is it laid out?

It doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s just a place to start and build from.

Of course, if you want help creating your to-do list system, reach out and let’s talk about it. Just comment below.

Quote image: "If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster." - Stephen R. Covey

You can’t meet your expectations without a plan

Next week starts the second half of 2020.

It’s a natural time to review the last six months and update your goals for the next six months.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about this (ironically, while on a break during my paid group’s all-day mid-year planning meeting).

The author shared that he was readjusting his expectations for the rest of 2020, but not planning because he didn’t know what the rest of 2020 will bring.

I was on board until the second part.

I understand the idea behind what he shared: 2020 has had many unexpected things that resulted in many of us making significant adjustments to our second quarter plans.

The temptation is not to plan for the third and fourth quarters to avoid this frustration and stress.

It reminds me of this quote:

If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.

Stephen R. Covey

Here just some of what I’ve seen happen when my clients don’t have a plan (this happens to me too):

  • Programs or courses that they don’t need are purchased and only half completed.
  • They feel frustrated because they don’t know their priorities, so they don’t know the most important things to complete. Instead, they have a bunch of stuff that feels like it needs to be done NOW.
  • They’re disappointed when reviewing the year because they didn’t make as much money or work with as many people as expected.

Planning and having goals is an integral part of having a business.

It gives you a roadmap to follow.

Let’s say you got in your car in the Chicago suburbs and expected to go to New York City but didn’t plan your route. Instead, you figured you’d drive East and probably get close.

One of two things will happen:

  1. You end up East, but hours away from New York City.
  2. You’re near New York City, but it took you a lot longer than anticipated.

If you plan your route, then your trip will go much smoother and faster. 

You might need to make adjustments based on road construction, accidents, or other things, but you’ll still get there faster with your adjusted plan.

The goal might change slightly as you go. Maybe instead of getting there on Monday, you arrive on Tuesday. Or you decide that New York City isn’t where you want to be right now and you choose to visit Columbus, Ohio instead.

The same goes for your business.

Your expectations might give you a general direction to go in, but without a plan, your business might not end up where you wanted it.

Take the time to both set your expectations AND plan for the remaining six months of 2020. Adjust as needed each month and you’ll be a lot further at the end of the year.

After all, you can’t meet your expectations without a plan.

If you need help or direction for setting your expectations and planning, comment below and let me know. We can set up a time to talk about how I can help you with that.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #134 / Frustration, lack of productivity, & an announcement

Frustration, lack of productivity, and an announcement


I’m so tired of the emails telling me how to spend my time or how to market my business during this “current crisis.”

I told my husband yesterday that I think I’m going to have to avoid the promotions tab of my email because it makes me anxious.

I’m frustrated by the “join me for this multiple-day training featuring these very knowledgeable people.” Or even the “I’ve decided to do a special training on x to help you navigate the current crisis.”

Some of them are very easy to say no to or ignore.

The ones that frustrate me are the ones that I’m interested in, but my week is not full of all this extra time to watch these videos/trainings (that will also expire in 24 hours SO WATCH THEM NOW). 

It’s just making me more anxious.

So, I’m permitting myself not to check that folder every day. And generally, I’m someone who likes to stay on top of ALL of my emails.

If you need permission to ignore the email that stresses you out, I give you that permission.

Lack of productivity

I talked about it a bit last week that I need downtime and space to process things.

This means that I’m not getting as much done as I usually would each week. 

Paradoxically, this is the most productive thing I can do for myself.

A couple of weeks ago shared a quote from John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars): “Taking care of myself and others is the productivity that matters most right now.”

It’s very true. I also shared Partners In Health’s (PIH) 10 mental health tips. You can find their article here.

Take a look at their list and do what works for you.

An Announcement

The things I’ve shared today are a slightly different version of what I’ve shared in the last three weeks. And I’m feeling a bit like a broken record.

One thing that’s helped me handle my frustration, stress, and lack of productivity is having conversations with small groups of people. 

I can interact, or not, as I feel like it and it makes me feel less alone (and it’s PIH’s first tip: Use technology to connect) and that I’m still a community that’s beyond the boundaries of my home.

This might be helpful to you too.

So, I’m putting Productivity for Solopreneurs on hold for now.

Instead, I invite you to join me for an online meeting (via Zoom) at 1 pm on Wednesdays.

Here’s the tentative format:

  • Share one good thing from your week (personal or business)
  • What do you need/want right now?
    This is to support you and is not the time to share who your ideal client or referral partners are. Instead, share what support/help you need, personally or professionally.
  • Q&A
    Have you ever wanted to pick my brain? Or wanted to know what others ask me when they want to pick my brain? This is the perfect opportunity to get your questions answered or learn something from someone else’s question.
  • We’ll keep the first meeting at 30 minutes.

Head over to the Facebook group Productivity for Women Entrepreneurs to find the link to join us next week.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #134

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done # / How are you spending your time?

How are you spending your time?

In my Next Level Business Mastermind group, we have a weekly call where we talk about goals and obstacles. This week one member asked what we were doing to handle/manage the recent changes to our lives.

This led to a discussion of how we’re spending our time. 

Some have found themselves with more time, but have realized they need to spend more time in self-care. Others have about the same amount of time, but the projects and tasks that they’re spending it on have changed.

Another member shared that she had to postpone the project she planned to be working on right now. This allowed her to start working on a project that had been on the back burner. She’s not doing new or different things, but her priorities have shifted.

I’ve seen a lot of coaches and businesses share free or discounted programs in the last couple of months–and that’s great. 

If it’s not something that fits with the goals of your business, it’s a distraction.

One coach I follow has made her paid course on creating a podcast free. I briefly thought about signing up for it. Thankfully, I dismissed that thought before I even went to the website. Creating a podcast is not one of my goals and remembering that allowed me to move on quickly.

Another thing I’ve reminded myself is that I get to choose who I allow in.

I’ve seen some people share that this is a time to buckle down and get things done! It’s time to focus and push yourself through this!

And you know what, that’s exactly what some people need. That’s how they cope and manage the unknown. So, that’s exactly what they should do.

That is not how I manage these times. And I’ve realized that I have an added layer of losing my Grandma two weeks ago. 

I need downtime and space to process.

You might need that too. So, that’s exactly what you should do.

So, don’t feel bad when you see others sharing that now is the time to get things done. Let them cope in their way and give yourself the space to cope in your way.

And if you need to snooze them for 30 days on Facebook, by all means, do! Again, you get to choose who you allow in.

There’s a couple of things that I want you to walk away thinking about.

  1. What are your goals?
    I’m not talking about your income intention; I’m talking about the goals that support that intention both short term and long term. If you’re adding a new project, make sure it aligns with your goals. Don’t add something new just because someone offered their course for free.
  2. How are you taking care of yourself right now?
    Give yourself the space you need to take care of yourself. It might mean that you spend less time in your business. That’s okay! For most of my audience, your business doesn’t exist without you. So don’t forget to take care of you!

I’m available if you want support. It might look like helping you get clearer around your intention and goals for your business (and self) right now or a call to chat with someone you don’t live with 😉

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #133

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #132 / Being productive looks like taking care of yourself

Being productive looks like taking care of yourself

If you ask me how I’m doing during this time, I’ll tell you that I’m good and I’ll mean it.

But if I take a little time to think about what’s actually going on, I’d tell you: I’m spending a lot of time scrolling through Facebook (my social media of choice) or sitting on the couch cross-stitching while listening to podcasts or watching Youtube.

One of my coping mechanisms is avoidance (scrolling Facebook). 

It’s a way I procrastinate and avoid dealing with things.

While cross-stitching is probably more of a healthy coping mechanism.

What are your coping mechanisms?

If you do some honest reflection, you’ll probably notice some slight shifts in your behavior too.

This brings me to a video I watched Tuesday from John Green. You can find it here. In it, he references ten mental health tips shared by Partners In Health.

Partners In Health (PIH) is a social justice & global health organization striving to make health care a human right for all people, starting with those who need it most (from their description on Twitter).

In their article here they offer these ten mental health practices:

  1. Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing; use technology to connect widely;
  2. Clear routines and schedule, seven days a week, at home—don’t go overboard;
  3. Exercise and physical activity, daily if possible;
  4. Learning and intellectual engagement—books, reading, limited internet;
  5. Positive family time—working to counter negativity;
  6. Alone time, outside if possible, but inside too; but remember, don’t isolate;
  7. Focused meditation and relaxation;
  8. Remember the things that you really enjoy doing, that you can do in this situation, and find a way to do them;
  9. Limit exposure to TV and internet news; choose small windows and then find ways to cleanse yourself of it;
  10. Bathe daily, if possible, to reinforce the feeling of cleanliness.

John Green also shared this: “Doing things on this list IS BEING PRODUCTIVE. Taking care of myself and others is the productivity that matters most right now.”

It’s important to remember that right now.

I saw something scrolling Facebook that I can’t find now to give proper credit, but the statement was something along the lines of: “That feeling you’re feeling right now, it’s grief.”

There have been a lot of changes to our normal over the past week, and it looks like these changes will stay in place for at least another couple of weeks. 

This means the goals we set, the things we planned on doing, and the experiences we anticipated are not happening or look significantly different now.

It’s natural to grieve these expectations.

Give yourself the time and space to do that.

And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, scared, or like shutting down, ask yourself: Which thing on the PIH’s list can I do right now?

And if you want/need to connect with someone, please reach out to me. 

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #132