Most people think of a to-do list as an endless list of tedious chores they need to get done. But, while it can be that, I propose that it can be a lot more – and that it can even help you reach your fitness goals!
I get it. You are a busy person. Between your job, your friends, your hobbies, your family, and pretty much everything else you want to get done, achieving your fitness goals can be tricky. But I am here to tell you that simply creating an effective to-do list can be a major key to staying on track.
I know, I know… for some of you reading the words “to-do list” makes your eyes slowly close but it doesn’t have to be like that. I am living testimony to that. So, to help you get you started, I am going to tell you my to-do list recipe for success.
3 Ingredients in an Effective To-Do List
- Use a note-taking app that syncs.
- Have a to-do list for today, tomorrow, and even into next week.
- Include things you enjoy doing!
Let’s dive deeper into each ingredient.
Use a note-taking app that syncs.
The reason syncing across all devices is important is twofold. I find my stress level is much lower if I can add an item to my to-do list at the moment I think of it (even if it is the middle of the night) and I also like to be able to knock things off the list as soon as they are complete—and then check what awesome task is up next. Having the list available and synced on all my devices (phone, tablet, laptop) means I am rarely without my trusty to-do friend.
Have a To-Do List for Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond
I always have my to-do list ready for today, tomorrow, and all the way into next week. This stops me from creating one single never-ending list of crap that needs to get done… eventually. Instead, I create a strategic, day-by-day list of what needs to get done, when it needs to get done, and on the day that suits it the best.
And yes, the weekends do get included on my to-do list as well but generally I try to limit it to items like “long hike” and “call mom” or “yard work” … or occasionally “finish the %$&* blog post about to-do lists.”
Include Things You Enjoy
The final ingredient in my to-do list recipe is that I add pretty much everything I need or want to do on that day. This way it isn’t just a dreaded list of jobs that I need/have to get done, it’s also a fun list of awesome things I am going to do and also some tasks that I am somewhat ambivalent about.
For example, my to-do list for today:
- Respond to urgent email
- Take salmon out of the freezer
- Go for walk/run at 8:00 am
- Review client’s requests
- Coaching call with Jessica at 2:00 pm
- Write a draft of the next episode of 2ndWindFitness
- Write the “To-do List” blog post (you’re reading it!)
- Watch Jets game 7:30 pm
- Do homework (I am learning Spanish).
- Get a good night’s sleep (code for: no evening snacking, no alcohol, and some bedtime yoga)
By including things like watching a hockey game or reminding myself that I want to focus on a good sleep (by doing – or not doing – the activities that make that possible) I have my chores, my work, my play, and my goals all in one easy to find spot.
Language – Did you notice that none of my tasks are worded in an onerous way? This is very important. Language is important. If I had said “no snacking” and “no video games” I would have felt hard-done-by and that could backfire on me (my inner rebel). But because I want a good sleep, I am focused on that lovely reward – I am not focused on what I am “giving up” to get that sleep.
Repetition – Also, by including daily wellness goals on my to-do list, I find my ability to achieve them skyrockets. When I see a workout or a health goal listed there, every single time I look at my to-do list during a day or a week, it incrementally increases my resolve and likelihood to make those things happen.
Asking Why – An interesting thing that happens when you write your to-do list is something that takes a little bit of mindfulness. If I add an item to my to-do list and it makes my stomach clench, I take that as a reason to pause and evaluate why exactly I am doing that particular activity. Asking the question “what would happen if I didn’t do that task” is a fun and important question to ask.
Of course, if the task is “do taxes” there is not much I can do about that. But if “5km run” makes me tense up, I need to think about that. Why am I dreading a run? What aspect of that run is not striking me as enjoyable? And most importantly, what could I do instead of that run that would not make my stomach clench (there are so many ways to get fit in the world, why would I do something that I don’t enjoy? Or at least enjoy its outcome?)
This step may be small but it is a meaningful added bonus of using your to-do list. Not only is it a way to organize your day, and ensure you fit your workouts in, but it also helps you evaluate what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you potentially could be doing instead.
All of this together is why I am a lifelong “to-do lister” who hasn’t missed a workout (without a really good reason) in a very, very long time.