Looking at our long, daily to-do lists can be very overwhelming. We see all of these different tasks we need to get done. However, with this kind of big to-do list, it is often confusing to determine which task has the most priority over others. The idea of the areas of responsibility is that we take this big long list and split it into the different roles we have in our lives.
An effective way to start splitting your to-do list is to determine which hats you wear on the daily. Some wear many hats, meaning they have a lot of areas of responsibility.
Take a small business owner for example. You’ll have tasks that fall under marketing, and some under client service, and so on. You have to be able to honor these different roles by dividing your tasks under each hat you wear. This way, you can choose which hat to wear at the moment, and accomplish your responsibilities accordingly.
Unlike your traditional to-do list, knowing your different areas of responsibility also takes into account the skill sets you need for each role. Knowing which skills to use when wearing a particular hat will make doing the tasks easier and more efficient.
As for me, I have 5 different areas of responsibility, namely client service, sales, marketing, administration as a CEO of my own business, and personal. When I get a separate project, I also add in a sixth area of responsibility. I think of these roles as “buckets,” in which I put the different tasks I need to finish. Having that big list split into buckets helps in determining which skills I need to apply.
When you feel overwhelmed by all the tasks and responsibilities you need to accomplish, the best way to free up your mind is through a brain dump. Write down all the tasks that need to be done. You don’t have to do anything with it at first–just put it on paper. Now you have this big long list of tasks.
Look for the themes and patterns within your list–these are your areas of responsibility. These are your buckets into which you can split your tasks. Putting them in their respective buckets will make your to-do list seem easier and a lot less overwhelming.
It is also important to remember that you can only wear one hat at a time. When we look at the big traditional list, we see it as wearing the hat of the person who needs all these tasks done. And that can be very overwhelming.
However, when you put on just one hat and only look at one particular bucket, it isn’t so bad. You can focus your energy on one skill set and one short list only. You can also start allotting time for a specific bucket when it is most convenient for you. This solution calms the brain for many reasons. Putting on just one hat will make working on tasks more effective and efficient.
First, have a better way of solving problems. If we let external stressors give us unnecessary stress, our tasks become harder to accomplish. This slows down our ability to finish our tasks, and even pile on more work to do. We have to limit the amount of capacity each task takes. Conserving the energy we exert on a task can give us more time to do other things.
It is also convenient to have systems working. It’s a lot easier to relax when you see everything that needs to be done. Once you know that you’re not forgetting anything, it’s easier to go through the tasks that you can see. It is also efficient to compartmentalize your tasks. With the bucket system, you see all your tasks categorized into your areas of responsibility. This will also allow you to allot your time to different buckets.
Having different buckets of tasks for different areas of responsibility also helps you see your priorities from a bird’s-eye view. You may be listing more tasks into one particular bucket. This makes your areas of responsibility unbalanced.
If you see that your buckets are lopsided, you might not be accomplishing tasks as efficiently as possible. With these buckets, you see which area you’re lacking in, or where you seem to be procrastinating.
Instead, split your bigger buckets into other existing ones, or get rid of them altogether. Having an imbalance in your buckets will be detrimental to your responsibilities and roles in life.
Having multiple buckets to help you in your work is important, but having a bucket that feeds the soul is equally necessary. For some, work may already be feeding one’s soul. However, if it doesn’t come naturally, it is wise to make its own separate bucket. Creating a bucket that increases your well-being will also make you more efficient in going through your to-do lists.
Some people are too attached to their to-do lists that if they do not finish what they set their minds to, they feel like a failure. They may be so emotionally connected to their tasks that it controls their mood. If you’re always thinking about all those things that need to be done, you can’t relax. The to-do list will never end.
Of course, detaching from our purpose and work is not the answer as well. What we need is to take the time to prioritize our tasks. Remind yourself that you want to accomplish your to-do list because it is healthy for you. Loving yourself and committing to yourself will help you realize that finishing these tasks is something you deserve, and something that is good for your well-being.
If you are to take just one thing out of this article, it is to wear one hat at a time. Remember that taking on more than one area of responsibility at a time will only leave you overwhelmed, thus slowing down your ability to check off your to-do list. Wear one hat, go through one bucket, focus on one area of responsibility. Trust that your other hats aren’t going anywhere--they are just there, waiting to be accomplished. Once you find an effective system for you, you will have more time to do other things for yourself and enjoy life.