Want to Finish Your To-Do List? Then Remember This.

Alright, friends. I hope you’re excited because this week we are diving into all things to-do list.

We’re talking about what’s on your to-do list. What you think about your to-do list. And how to get those tasks done.

Because if you’re anything like me, that to-do list can get ridiculously long. And oftentimes, it feels like it never gets any shorter… am I right?!

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away and the holiday season ramping up, I know how things manage to get even busier for all of us.

And today I, here to help you with that.

I want to help you start checking things off your to-do list and tackling your day like a rockstar.

Sound good?

Awesome. Then be sure to check out the podcast below!

Prefer to read instead of listening? No problem! Scroll down the page for a full transcript of the podcast.



  • The important fact that your to-do list is neutral
  • The power of your thoughts when it comes to completing your to-do list.
  • My top three strategies to plow through your to-do list and get things done.


Grab your free workbook to plow through procrastination and get things done here!

Sign up for a free 1:1 coaching session with me here!

Check out Gretchen Rubin’s podcast about the “ta-da” list here!


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What is your favorite strategy to follow through on your to-do list? Does your to-do list feel a mile long? How do you get things done efficiently? Let me know below!

Transcript: Want to Finish Your To-Do List?

You’re listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast with Paula Engebretson episode number 16.

Hello, you amazing humans. How’s life treating you this week?

I’ve got to tell you, I am recording this episode on a Saturday, and I am super excited that it’s the weekend. 

And one of the reasons I’m so excited is because I get to be talking with you all right now. Seriously – this is one of the things I look forward to the most each week. It is just so fun.

Now, this week we are diving into all things to-do list.

We’re going to talk about what’s on your to-do list. What you think about your to-do list. And how to get those tasks done.

Because here’s the deal – if you’re anything like me, that to-do list can get ridiculously long. And oftentimes, it feels like it never gets any shorter – am I right?!

And with Thanksgiving just a few weeks away and the holiday season starting to ramp up, I know how things get even busier for all of us.

So today I want to help you with that.

I want to help you keep checking things off your to-do list and tackling your day like a rockstar.

Sound good?


How to Complete Your To-Do List

So the first thing I want to explore with you today is the incredibly important fact that your to-do list is neutral.

What do I mean by that?

Well, often when we think about our to-do list, we tend to have a lot of strong thoughts and emotions about it.

So we might think about it and feel super stressed. Or we might feel overwhelmed. Or we might feel a sense of dread about it.

But the first thing I want to emphasize today is that your to-do list is neutral.

Your to-do list – in and of itself – is simply a list of tasks on paper or on an app. That’s it.

It’s not an overwhelming todo list. The list is not causing your stress. It’s not too long. It is simply tasks on a list.

Now, this might not sit well with you. 

You might be thinking, “are you kidding me, Paula? Of course, it’s my to-do list that’s causing me stress. Have you seen this list?”

Don’t worry. It’s all good. Stick with me.

I want you to take a minute and think about your todo list. If you have it nearby, you might even look at it.

Now, as you picture all of those things on your list, I encourage you to become the watcher of your mind for a moment.

To-Do List Thoughts

Ask yourself, “what are the different thoughts and feelings that my brain is experiencing when I think about this to-do list?”

Are you thinking: “there’s no way I’ll get all of that done.” Are you feeling anxious? Maybe you’re excited by that to-do list. Perhaps you’re thinking about all of the fun things you get to do today.

Notice how the thought you’re thinking is what’s causing you to feel a certain way about your to-do list.

It’s not your to-do list that’s making you feel anxious or excited. It’s your thought about the to-do list.

Your to-do list is neutral.

Let me give you a couple of examples to put this into perspective. 

For many years, I had a food blog. And for several months back in 2015 my sister and I worked on the blog together. We would take turns posting new recipes and writing the blog posts and everything else that’s involved in food blogging.

Well, when it came to doing all of the steps involved in running a food blog, whether it’s experimenting and perfecting recipes, cooking the meals, taking the pictures, editing the pictures, writing the blog posts, etc. Megen and I had the same list of tasks. We had the same to-do list.

Now, if to-do lists weren’t neutral, then that would mean that we would feel the same way about those tasks no matter what. 

We would both feel stressed or we would both feel energized or we would both feel overwhelmed.

But as you might guess, that was not the case. Why? Because of our thoughts.

You see, Megen loved taking the pictures and editing the pictures and making the food look delicious. I, on the other hand, absolutely dreaded that part.

I thought, UGH – I hate trying to make my food look pretty. This takes so long. My food will be cold by the time I actually get to eat it. I have to make all these fancy meals at random times of the day when the lighting is just right. This just takes way too long.

So while Megen felt excited about those tasks on the to-do list, I – not surprisingly with all of those negative thoughts – experienced dread.

And on the flip side, I loved experimenting in the kitchen and making the meals and trying new things, which wasn’t Megen’s favorite thing.

So again, it’s not the to-do list causing our emotions. It’s our thoughts about it.

Your Daily To-Do List is Neutral

And the same is true for your daily to-do list.

In fact, I was looking at my to-do list this morning, and immediately I had a sneaky little thought creep in that said: “there’s no way I can get all of this done today.”

And because I’ve been doing a lot of self-coaching around my to-do list and the thoughts I’m choosing to think about it, I caught that sneaky thought this morning, and I changed that negative thought into a challenge.

So rather than thinking, “there’s no way I can get all of this done today.” Instead, I chose to think: “I wonder how many tasks I can complete today?” 

And perhaps not surprisingly, this second thought ways much more energizing. 

So again, take a minute and think about that to-do list that’s waiting for you in your planner, or on your phone, or on that sticky note.

What is the thought you’re thinking to yourself?

What is the story you’re telling yourself?

If you’re thinking something like, “I’m never going to get it all done.” Chances are, your brain feels overwhelmed. And what’s more, you’ll probably start spinning out in indecision about where to start. Or maybe you distract yourself with busy work that feels productive, but it’s not actually on your list, and then you really don’t “get it all done.”

If maybe you’re thinking something like, “I don’t want to do this” or “I hate doing this.”  If those are your thoughts, chances are that thought fuels frustration. And I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t do my best work when I’m feeling frustrated. 

Instead, I want to throw in the towel or do something completely different. And obviously, that option doesn’t help me complete my to-do list very quickly. And frankly, it’s probably just getting longer the more I put it off, which leaves me even less excited to get started. 

So what can we do?

How to Get More Done

Well, first of all, be mindful of those thoughts. If you’re feeling negative about what you have to tackle today, tune into your brain for a minute. Ask yourself: “What am I thinking about this list? Is this thought serving me? How can I think about it differently?”

And of course, if you want help working through those racing thoughts and choosing new ones that will keep you moving in the right direction, be sure to sign up for a free session with me. Head over to imbusybeingawesome.com/freesession. I’ve got you covered.

Now, there are some other important strategies that you can use to tackle that to-do list in addition to cleaning up your thinking, and I’m going to share with you my three favorites today.

Decide What Done Looks Like

The first is deciding what “done” looks like.

What do I mean by this?

Well, if you’re a person who keeps a running to-do list that’s a mile long, it’s easy to slip into feeling like you NEVER get enough done because there are more tasks listed than anyone could complete in a day.

So if you fall into this camp, and your to-do list is super long, decide ahead of time what “done” looks like for the day. 

Does it mean completing 5 of the tasks on your list? Does it mean completing one big task and 3 medium-sized ones? What does done look like for you?

By making this point clear to yourself, you will have a clear plan of attack on what you’re going to work on for that day rather than staring at a giant list wondering where to start, and you’ll also be able to gauge how much you tackled at the end of the day.

Now even better than keeping that giant to-do list, I challenge you to map out every single one of those tasks on your todo list onto your calendar so you know exactly when you’ll tackle each item throughout the coming week or month. 

And then – dare I even suggest this blasphemy – throw that to-do list away.

And if you want more information on this approach, which I highly recommend doing, be sure to jump way back to episode 2 of the podcast, which walks you step-by-step through the process to get you and your to-do list organized and ready to go.

Manage Your To-Do List: Break it Down

Now my second favorite tip to get through your to-do list is to break down each of your tasks into super small, simple steps…that was a lot of alliteration.

But seriously, break those tasks down into baby steps.

You see, when your brain looks at a big project on your to-do list that takes longer than 3-5 minutes, it immediately jumps to the unhelpful thought, “that’s too hard.” or “that will take too long.” or “I don’t know where to start.”

So maybe on your to-do list, you have a task like, write chapter 4 of the book. Or maybe it says, reach out to clients. Perhaps it says, create powerpoint slides for presentation. Or maybe it says, design website.

When your brain sees tasks like this, it automatically jumps to “Error! Does not compute.”

Because there are so many steps within that one task, your brain wants to think, “this is just way too much.” It doesn’t even want to get started. It is too much to take in at once. 

So what you need to do to bypass this obstacle is to break down those tasks into super small, manageable steps.

Because when you do this, your brain can look at step one and think: “oh, I can totally do that!” Rather than: “ACK – I’m never going to get that done!” Or “UGH I don’t even know where to start!”

Podcast To-Do List Workflow: Break it Down

So let me give you an example that I have for myself when it comes to my podcast to-do list. Because if I just wrote “podcast” on my to-do list, my brain would start thinking, “but where should I start?”

So to combat that overwhelm ahead of time, I created a workflow that has each of the steps involved in creating the podcast broken down into small, manageable steps that my brain can easily handle without the drama.

So my podcast to-do list includes: 

  • Brainstorm topics 10 minutes. 
  • Draft a preliminary outline with 1 main topic and 3-5 takeaways. 
  • Create a detailed outline for the intro. 
  • Make a detailed outline for points 1, 2, and point 3. 
  • Find a quote for the episode. 
  • Write a reflection on the quote. 
  • Read through the podcast outline for clarity. 
  • Record the podcast. 
  • Edit the podcast.
  • Create show notes. 
  • Research keywords for the blog post. 
  • Put show notes on the website. 
  • Create graphics for the show notes to put on the website.
  • Create cover art for the podcast episode. 
  • Upload the episode to my podcast server. 
  • Enter the show notes and the image to the podcast server. 
  • Embed the podcast onto the blog post. 
  • Proofread everything. 
  • Schedule the podcast and blog post for release on Monday. 

WHEW! And that happens every week to get the podcast out to you. 

Let me tell you, if I just write “do podcast,” my brain thinks AAARRRGGGHH – that’s WAY too much work. And I don’t want to get started.

But when I break it down and I see on my list, ”brainstorm topics for 10 minutes” or “draft an outline,” my brain thinks, “okay, I can do that.” 

Because I have a clear step-by-step workflow – my brain doesn’t slip into “I don’t know where to start. I’m confused. it’s too hard.”

It takes away all of that potential mind drama.

By the way, now that you know all of the different steps involved in putting this podcast out each week, would you take 20 seconds to go leave me a rating? Just search for I’m Busy Being Awesome on your podcast app, and scroll down to ratings and reviews, and then click the stars for a rating. Super simple. You don’t even have to write anything if you don’t want to. It will take you 20 seconds tops, and I would SO appreciate it. 

Create a “done” list.

Now my third favorite tip to complete your to-do list is aimed especially at all of you who look back on your day and ask yourself, what the heck did I even get done today?!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes my days feel like a total blur.

Maybe I’ll have a day that’s packed with meetings, activities, and appointments. Maybe it’s a day filled with back-to-back coaching calls. Or maybe I’m working at my desk all day writing, grading papers, and answering emails. 

And when my days are absolutely packed without much downtime or breathing room between tasks, I sometimes struggle to remember what I even accomplished at the end of the day. 

I know I’ve been working, but I can’t remember what I’ve been working on because it all blends together.

And it’s on days like this that I find this last strategy particularly effective, and this strategy is creating a “done” list.

I got this concept from Gretchen Rubin on her Happier podcast, which I’ll link to in the show notes.

And she calls it a “ta-da” list. And the idea of a “done list” is just as it sounds. It is creating a list of everything you did accomplish each day.

I find that doing this helps silence the negative thoughts that you didn’t get enough done that day, by showing your brain everything you did complete. 

And if you find you didn’t get as much done as you’d like because most of your day was spent on social media, this “done list” can give you the gentle nudge you need to turn off those distractions the next day.

And there are a few ways you can do this. You can just take a few minutes at the end of the day and write down everything you completed, or you can write down each task as you complete it. I prefer the second option because of the sense of completion I get as I write down each task. It acts as fuel for my motivation, and I’m even more excited to keep going.

I highly recommend giving it a try.

How To Get Things Done: Crush Your To-Do List

SO, my busy-awesome friends. If you are staring down your to-do list and you’re battling those feelings of stress or overwhelm, remember, take some time to clean up your thinking. 

Identify the thoughts that are creating your negative feelings and challenge yourself to look at those tasks differently. 

And if you want any help, be sure to sign up for a free session at imbusybeingawesome.com/freesession

Once you’re thinking differently about that to-do list, then it’s time to start using my three favorite strategies to get things done.

First, define what done looks like to you.

Second, break down each task into small baby steps so your brain is ready to complete them without hesitation.

And finally, in order to remind yourself of everything that you accomplish each day, and to fuel your motivation to keep moving forward, create a done list either at the end of the day or as you complete each task.

And if you want some extra help getting yourself organized and crushing your to-do list, be sure to head over to today’s show notes either in your podcast app or at imbusybeingawesome.com/episode16 I’ve created for you a free workbook that guides you step-by-step through breaking through procrastination, organizing your to-do list, and finally getting those tasks crossed off your to-do list.

Quote of the Week

And that leads me right into this week’s quote of the week by Jared Silver, which reads:

“Doing things is not the same as getting things done.”

Jared Silver

My friends, this is an important one.

So often we keep ourselves busy by focusing on the little tasks or jumping from one thing to the next.

We trick ourselves into thinking that doing a little bit of everything will help us stay afloat. 

And frankly, I think we all fall into this trap every now and again.

In fact, a colleague of mine was coaching me just last week and he helped me realize that I was doing this very thing with my own to-do list. 

It happens to all of us; our brains are constantly looking for the safest, easiest task. It’s evolved this way to conserve energy and focus on what’s familiar in order to survive over thousands of years, so needless to say, this practice is hardwired pretty deep.

And that’s okay!

The important thing is to catch yourself when you’ve slipped into that practice and redirect your focus. 

Stop being busy, and start being productive.

Start producing something.

And start getting things done.

Alright, my friends, that’s going to do it for us this week. So tell me, are you busy being awesome? If so, be sure to snap a picture, throw it up on your Instagram stories, and be sure to tag me @imbusybeingawesome. I would love to cheer you on!

Also, if you want to keep getting more great strategies to increase your productivity, manage your time, and start living your best life, then be sure to hit the subscribe button on your podcast app now. And while you’re there, would you leave me a quick review?

And finally, do you know of anyone who would benefit from hearing this message? Then be a rockstar and share it with a friend! 

Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk to you soon.

46 thoughts on “Want to Finish Your To-Do List? Then Remember This.”

  1. I am one of those people that def starts to feel overwhelmed looking at my to-do list sometimes. Getting to that positive mindset isn’t always an easy or finding the motivation.

  2. Breaking a to do list down is so important. Or else nothing will ever get done! For me anyways lol. But it’s a great piece of advice to actually get things done!

  3. To-Do lists have literally changed my life. I make sure to add each thing a day or two before, so if something comes up, I don’t miss deadlines.

  4. As a parent of three kids and two dogs, things can get a bit hectic around here. Working from home has always been a choice but it’s starting to become a necessity. I love what you’re doing to help with tackling To-Do lists. It definitely helps.

  5. My to-do lists are always so overwhelming and stressful. I love the idea of breaking them down hopefully that will help me get things done in a timely manner!

  6. I’m all about the lists and sometimes it can feel so overwhelming as it feels never-ending. This gave me so much to think about and to help change my mindset for how I view completing and tackling it.

  7. I am a huge list maker, but often feel so overwhelmed with it because I never get it completely done. This was very helpful for me to read!!

      1. Just wanted to follow up and tell you that I focused on accomplishing THREE things instead of a list of fifteen little and big things and totally ROCKED my day. Woo!

  8. I love the idea of breaking down a to-do list down. I often find myself writing something like, publish new blog post, and then get frustrated because I can’t seem to cross it off. Breaking it down into each task would be so much better!

  9. Nicole Herose C. Escat

    What a wonderful podcast, it’s been a long time since I haven’t listened any podcast until now. I’ll have to save this one and try it.

  10. Oh wow, I am a HUGE list maker. It brings me great joy but can also be a source of frustration. I love the idea of thinking of my lists as neutral.

  11. You caught me! I often spend my day staring at a giant list wondering where to start. I am going to try deciding how much must be done and feel successful when that happens.

  12. Fantastic podcast! Breaking things into baby steps is a huge factor for me. And writing things down (or emailing myself). If I haven’t written something down in some way, it isn’t being done. Great tips!!

  13. My to-do list is shorter than ever now…let’s say is more realistic. This way I don’t have pressure on and I can easely complete all my tasks x

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