to do listLots of us, myself included, lie in bed at night wondering what on earth happened since getting out of it that morning.  You had great intentions for the day – it was going to be mega productive, your to do list was at the ready, you got the first couple of things done, and then it all went into a blur, or by the wayside, and you are now lying there, about to go to sleep, wondering what happened and kicking yourself for diverging off course, hoping that tomorrow will be better.

Sound familiar?  Of course it does.  It happens to us all.  Most days, that to do list just gets longer, in fact, it’s becoming your worst enemy.  You are getting more and more frustrated with yourself as you seem to add more to it than you strike off.  What do you do with your day?!  How can you be so off track from what you intended to happen?!  Will tomorrow be any better?  Probably not!


Your Zone

Chances are that if you are not making good headway on your to do list on a frequent basis, you are in the wrong zone for you.  To be in your ideal zone, you need to figure out what matters to you and have your life revolve around that as much as possible.  Here’s some questions to get you started:

  1. What are your natural skills and talents, your strengths?
  2. Where are your quirks, your obsessions, or your weaknesses, an asset for you?
  3. What are your passions, the stuff you pursue in your spare time, your natural motivations?

By consciously identifying your strengths, weaknesses, differences, and passions, you have the guideposts you need for life and will be able to keep coming back to them to stay true to yourself and in your ideal zone.


Find Your Focus

Finding your ideal zone is not particularly tricky.  You just probably haven’t ever sat down to really think about it and make some conscious decisions by yourself, for yourself.  No time like the present – so find a couple of pieces of paper and a pen and take some time now to consider these questions:

  1. Make a list of things you love doing, and/or intrigue you, and/or you’ve always wanted to or would like to try
  2. On a new page, draw a table with two columns: activities to do with people, and activities to do alone
  3. Take your list and organise it into the table, separating out the activities into the two columns
  4. Look at your list under activities to do alone.  Is there a way you can or want to pursue those that also involves others? e.g. reading/join a book club; photography/join a photography club; gym/sign up to boot camp.  Keep the ones that involve others, cross off the ones that don’t
  5. Determine ways to spend 90% of your time doing things you love or have always wanted to try with others who also love doing those same things – join the clubs, start a club, prioritise some activities over others where you will find it easier to get going

When you pursue activities you enjoy doing with others who enjoy the same things, you will find yourself moving to a whole new level of being.  Your commitment, passion, skill and personality will all shine through and you will see all kinds of synergies appearing in your life.


From “To Do” to “Done”

When you have worked through and identified your strengths, weaknesses, differences, and passions, and started pursuing things that matter most to you that allow your commitment, passion, skill and personality to shine, things will start moving in the right direction.  You are now much closer to your ideal zone, and very quickly this can become overwhelming in an entirely different way from the overwhelm associated with not being in your zone at all.

You now need to focus even more and organise yourself around a handful of key areas that really, truly matter so that you and your to do list move in the right direction.

  1. Choose 5 areas of focus (you might want more or less) for this year
  2. Ensure you get a balance between your work and your personal areas e.g. 3 work, 2 personal
  3. These focus areas should leverage your strengths, embrace your weaknesses, assert your differences, and reflect your passions
  4. Your to do’s should fit into one of these focus areas you have chosen (95% of your time should be in pursuit of to do’s that directly relate to at least one area)
  5. As you check of your to do’s as done, you will see that you are directly contributing to what will make the most difference for you, what matters


Final Thoughts

There’s nothing like writing an article about to do lists and including a series of to do’s along the way!  Start as you mean to go on.  Banish your meaningless, chaotic, catch all to do list, and replace it with one that really matters, that contributes to what you want to achieve this year.  If it helps to get your started, here are my focus areas for this year:


  1. Sustain a progressive Learning & Development role/identity
  2. Grow my coaching business
  3. Build my knowledge & expertise in my chosen fields


  1. Find the right balance between fit, healthy, and fun
  2. Spend time connecting with loved ones


Share Your Insights

Use the comments area to share your focus areas.  I’d love to hear where you are focusing your life this year.


Your First Stepping Stone

Not sure where to start?  Read about my Stepping Stones to Happiness programme and contact me to schedule your first coaching session for free.


(Inspiration: 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, Peter Bregman)