How Your Tasks List Can Bring You Undone

Task List Undone

It might surprise you that your to-do list or your task list, can mentally bring you undone. If you’re a very organised person, you probably have lists. Lots of people have lists, but where you can come unstuck is if you have a really huge list with lots of tasks to do. You look at this huge list every day and think to yourself ‘Where am I going to begin? Where do I start?’ and at the end of the day you’ll find you’ve only put the slightest dent in it. You may have only crossed off three things and how deflating is that? It then becomes hard to stay focused, motivated and to gain clarity around what you need to do.

Here’s a tip that many time management experts share to create a focused, motivated and productive mindset. They suggest that if you do have a huge list, your goal is to pick just three tasks (or no more than five) and simply focus on those three tasks that you most want to achieve for the day. For example, what are the top ‘must do’ three tasks you have to get done before the end of the day? What happens is that when you complete those three tasks, there’s a great sense of accomplishment and that’s what enables you to feel productive. It motivates you, stimulates you and propels you to keep going and moving forward. Celebrating and accumulating small wins, makes the big wins much more achievable and enjoyable.


If you’ve done any Professional Development training, you will have heard about SMART goals. It’s an acronym, and SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Now, here’s the important word within SMART goals; the A for achievable. If a goal is too big, for example if I say I’m going to win Miss America, then the enormity of this goal makes it hard for me to stay motivated and on the path to achieve that goal. It needs to be something that is within my grasp to help me strive towards it. Like the carrot in front of the donkey. If the carrot’s down the end of the road, the donkey’s less likely to walk towards it. But if it’s right in front of its face and very achievable, then it will move towards it. We are no different than the donkey, we need something that’s within our grasp and achievable to help us stay motivated.


Quite often when I’m talking to people about time management, productivity and goals, I reference the analogy of eating an elephant. Imagine if we were to eat an elephant, we wouldn’t sit down to eat that elephant in one sitting, we would do it one mouthful at a time, just like the proverb says “How do you eat an elephant? Just one mouthful at a time”. A famous Lao Tzu quote says, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. It’s about taking that first movement forward, that small step which is achievable. Coming back to your to-do list, make sure that it’s achievable, that it’s a mountain that’s scalable, in fact it’s a hill not a mountain. Pick three tasks that you will achieve today, and you may even get them completed by lunchtime. In that case, go back to your big to-do list and choose another three tasks. You will find yourself moving forward, feeling motivated, stimulated and achieve much more than if you were dwelling over the huge list and feeling stressed at the end of the day thinking of all the tasks you didn’t complete. Even though I utilize complex digital systems to help me manage and prioritize tasks, I still write down three tasks that I want to achieve for the day on a notebook to help me manage my to-do list without stress.


  • Don’t look at your enormous list and try to decide what to do next, pick just three tasks and focus on completing those.
  • It’s okay to have a big ‘to-do’ list but focus on achieving three things, reward yourself and then pick the next three.
  • Focus on S.M.A.R.T goals and most importantly the ones that are achievable today.
  • “A journey of thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao Tzu
  • Celebrating and accumulating small wins, makes big wins much more achievable and enjoyable.

Task List Undone

Barbara Clifford is a master of prioritization. If you’d like advice on how you can better prioritize your time.

You can book a time to chat. My goal is not to sell but to always give value. Promise.

About the Author:

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a time management & stress management enthusiast based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things. She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programs, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships. Follow Barbara on Twitter @barbclifford.


This amazing Automated Task List allows you

to brain dump all the things you need to do in one big long list.