Creating To-Do Lists that Work


There I was sitting in the back of a pickup truck. I was depleted and worn out… I had yet again crammed far too much in my schedule, and I was feeling it. Next to me sat my very good friend Amanda, one of my best friends and past #djaxbrides. She sat next to me concerned, and a great deal disappointed. You see, Amanda and her husband Ben had driven 10 hours to visit me that weekend… and in my business, I’d completely forgotten to write it down. They had come excited to see me… and I had spent the majority of my time just trying to stay afloat. This business, which was MEANT to be a blessing had taken over my life.


But that’s just how my life has been. Some weeks I truthfully find myself working 12 hour days in ALL OUT catch up mode. Like no joke. Many of you already know this about me, but at this moment, alongside putting in 40 hours per week on a photography business, I am working towards becoming a Physician Assistant [which currently consists of studying to becoming an EMT while also preparing to start Organic Chemistry], working as a substitute teacher in the nearby schools, and I’ve begun volunteering with an anti-human trafficking organization in the area. Life is… well it’s absolutely COMPLETELY nuts actually! And when I say nuts, I mean I DAILY find myself wondering how on EARTH I’m going to get all this stuff done!


How can I work TWO full time jobs, do well in school, have time to hang with people I love, AND hold onto a healthy, sane lifestyle? Simple answer, I CAN’T! Literally impossible! The more I attempted to do all of this the more I realized that for me to do all that I desired to do, I couldn’t just WILL more time into existence. As great as that would be, God has yet to bestow that super power upon me.


No… I needed something MORE!


And then it hit me while taking a class from Matt Kennedy. [For those who don’t follow closely to the wedding world, he’s a photographer in Canada.] He talked about how during a typical week, he and his wife only put in 24 HOURS EACH into working on their business… 24 hours… WHAT?! That statement hit me so hard! And it’s not like they are sacrificing profits to do so. They simply decided that their largest priority was going to be their family, and then they figured out ways to make the business serve their desires…


If I want to be a successful wedding photographer AND go into medicine, I have to take this job that can EASILY suck 70 hours a week on its own and figure out how to get everything done in 24. As with everything else in life, it’s beena journey for sure, but I want to share today what I’ve figured out so far. As I improve this system I’ll be happy to give you guys more information!



So, when your to do list gets impossible…


1. Realize that today only has so many hours.


As much as I hate it, I have to sleep at night, which automatically leaves me with 16 hours a day of usable time. If I spend 30 minutes of that eating, 15 minutes showering, and an hour on recreation, and do NOTHING else, that leaves me with… 14 hours and fifteen minutes to work. Being real with myself for a moment, even if I HUSTLED during all fourteen of those for an entire 7 day week, I still don’t think I would be able to dig my way through my life’s list of tasks. So, what do you do when you can’t do everything?


2. Create a priority system and stick with it


I cannot be everywhere at once or do two things well at exactly the same time. As much as I’d love to gain superhuman productivity skills, I’m stuck being plain old me. And that means I need a way to decide what tasks are the most important in a given day. And then, when I’ve decided on those tasks, I have to do them and not allow myself to get sidetracked by the more fun projects that I’d LOVE to be working on instead! Being real though, for a VERY creative person such as myself, it can be really difficult at times to force myself to stick with this list, but if you’ll commit to it and just DOMINATE the stuff you hate to do, you’ll find that you have so much more time to do the things you love.


3. Take it one task at a time


Inevitably though, even with GREAT prioritization, if you have a life that’s anything like mine, you will always end up staring at a mountain of tasks… and if you’re not careful, that mountain will quickly begin to FEEL a whole lot like a giant, crushing wave.


Being frank though, I’ve found that allowing my mind to view the tasks ahead in this manner really accomplishes NOTHING! Whenever I start to view my to-do list as an insurmountable obstacle, it becomes all the easier to just give up and shrink back into a lazy world of reading educational books and contemplating the true meaning of failure.


At these times it becomes all them more important to remember that GREATNESS is not achieved at the end product. It is simply just a lot of small things done well OVER and OVER again. To accomplish my overarching goals, all I have to do today is complete the tasks for that day. If I can just keep subtracting tasks from my life faster than life can add them, by basic math, I WILL eventually catch up.


4. Give up at times


Even still, sometimes to catch up, we’re just going to have to stop trying to be EVERYTHING.


Hi. My name is Daniel Jackson and I’m a photographer, pencil artist, student, sibling, son, grandson, eggnog addict, teacher, and business owner. Each job comes with its own lists of duties, timetables, and responsibilities. Each one is important to me. On those things I cannot and will not give up or give the job to someone else. There are jobs however that I personally do not need to do! I am not an accountant. I have NO idea how taxes work, and even if I spent four hours each week trying to get it all in order, I’m sure the government would still find plenty of reasons to show up at my door. So, I’ve given up on trying! My accountant is outsourced. And soon I’ll do the same with my photo editing… and my car repair… and some of my client gifts! The point is, we only have a certain number of hours in a day. So, we either HAVE TO work like CRAZY to keep up the pace, do less things, OR find ways to give some of our tasks to someone else who can do them faster/better!


Just to name a couple resources, I use Laine CPA for all my accounting! She’s fantastic and you should check her out! For photo editing, I’m about to start working with Photographer’s Edit [This will save me RIDICULOUS amounts of time]. A bride for a wedding I’m photographing cuts my hair. And I have a car repair shop a couple miles away that does all my repairs! In just these FOUR things, I save myself HOURS of time each week!


5. Organize it all into a system that you can easily manage


Last, to do this kind of work, you need a system that can keep up with you. When you’re working with a to-do list of over 100 things, the system is what keeps you sane. Personally, I use a system demonstrated by David Allen in his book “______.” I couldn’t POSSIBLY go through the whole thing here, but David’s system has helped me a TON, and I would highly recommend this book to anybody! To actually do the system I use Trello, a task managing software that allows for incredibly easy management across all your my devices. Then, we I put David Allen’s system and Trello together, it has been doing wonders for increasing my productivity!


The bottom line: we only have so many seconds each day, and how we use each and every one is CRITICAL!  So, constantly finding new ways to speed up our processes will not only save us time to devote more to the things we love, it will also give us the power and ability to finally climb out from under our to-do list monsoons.


Good luck everyone! You have the power to make your business work for you!


And if I can be hopeful with ALL that stuff I mentioned before, then you certainly can, too! If I were you, I would start with David Allen’s book and go from there. Trust me.

To God be the glory,

daniel jackson

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