Mastering Your To Do List | Ashley Varner

Mastering Your To Do List

When people tell me, “I’m just so busy.” It makes me think of my own to do list. I’m a busy woman by anyone’s definition. I’m a wife, mom of 3 boys, I’m a foster mom (sometimes having 2-3 more children in the house at a time), I run two businesses, and serve on several committees.

But somehow, I manage to get everything done and still have time for things I want to do. You know, those things like reading for pleasure, exercising, journaling, yoga, and spending time with each of my kids individually.

So what’s the secret? I’m so glad you asked! 😉 Today I’m sharing the trick I’ve learned to master my to-do list, so I can move on with living a life I love!

Resources Mentioned:

How to Create More Time Workshop:

Highlights From The Episode:

When people tell me that they’re too busy, it really always makes me think about my own to-do list. I am a busy woman by anybody’s definition. I’m a wife, I’m a mom of three boys, I’m a foster mom, sometimes having two or three more children in the home than my own boys, and I run two businesses and I serve on a lot of committees.

If I were to show you my calendar, it would look like a color-coded mess, but somehow, I manage to get everything done and still have time for things that I want to do, those things as reading for pleasure or exercising and journaling, things like that. Those are things that I enjoy doing that I don’t ever want to sacrifice for the rest of my to-do list. Even though I’m super busy, I am able to get a lot of things done. So you might be asking, “Well, what’s the secret?” I am so glad that you asked, because today, I am sharing a few tips on what I’ve done to learn how to master my to-do list in a way that allows me to spend more time living a life that I really love.

Hello there and welcome to “The Renewed Mind”. I am so glad that you’re here. I know that I say that in every video but I truly am just so personally blessed whenever I see that people are enjoying the videos and really getting a lot out of them. I talk a lot about mindset and productivity, goal setting, and confidence. All of this month, we’re talking about time. I shared a video on how to manage your time, I’ve talked about how you can create more time, and today I wanna talk to you about mastering your to-do list.

So, as I said at the beginning of this video, I have a lot of things on my plate. I have lists and to-do lists and tasks and appointments and events, all types of things that can get in the way of really living the life that I wanna live. And so I have found a couple of things that really help me to master my to-do list and I’m gonna be sharing them with you today.

The Power of Routines

So the first thing that I wanted to share is the power of routines. Now, this is something that you might have heard a lot about but I want to encourage you that whenever you set up a routine in your life it will begin to pay you back so quickly in extra time.

So I have created routines for myself, and for my children. Let me explain a little bit just the mindset work that goes creating a routine. Whenever you set up a routine, what you’re doing is you’re making decisions ahead of time. You are planning things out that become very habitual. So our brains can really only make so many decisions before they get tired, and it’s called decision fatigue.

And so if you are constantly making decisions and mulling over, “What day should I do the laundry?” Or “When should I do this?” Or, “I wonder how many cans of carrots or whatever that we need for this?” Whenever you are constantly making your mind and your brain ask questions and really just make decisions, what you’re doing is causing it fatigue.

As many things as possible that you can put on autopilot where your brain doesn’t have to think about it, the better off you’re gonna be to actually make sure that those things get done. So let me give an example. Whenever you start to learn how to drive, your brain is going through all these things to make all these decisions, exactly how hard should you press the pedal? How hard do you need to turn the key to start the ignition? With all of those things, you are hyper-aware of all the decisions that need to be made in order to drive a vehicle. But after a while, after it becomes a habit, you don’t even think about it whenever you get behind the wheel, your brain does this to help you. Your brain does this to make sure that you’re not having to make as many decisions as you did in the first place.

So anytime that you are creating something new in your life, learning how to drive, for instance, your brain goes into overdrive to learn how to do that, and after a while, it becomes second nature. Whenever you’re creating a routine in your life, what I want you to see is that at first, you’re gonna be hyper-aware of everything that is going on, and it’s gonna feel like there’s no way that you can continue at that pace.

And so that’s whenever people end up giving up on their routines, because they think, “This is more work than it’s worth because now I’m constantly thinking, okay, what about this? What about this?” And they don’t realize that just like whenever you learn how to drive a car, it is more upfront but eventually, as it becomes second nature, all that brain chatter goes away.

So if you are wanting to get more done on your to-do list, this really works well for things that happen on a regular basis. If every time you come in the door from coming to work and your kids are home, if you have a set routine for them that involves homework and chores and maybe reading or playing outside or whatever it is, as you make routines in your life, those things end up becoming second nature.

For me, if there are things in my life that I know are non-negotiable, these are things I do not want to say no to, things as I do a load of laundry every day, I try to get some kind of movement in the morning, reading my Bible, praying, journaling, I make sure that those are all part of my morning routine.

Whenever I wake up, I change the laundry from the washer to the dryer because I set it the night before to finish right whenever I wake up, I set that to the dryer, and while it’s drying, I’m doing my Bible study time my prayer time, my Bible reading and meditation, and all of that, I might get some yoga in and then I am able to fold the laundry, get it ready to be put away, and automatically, without me having to think about it, there are things happening in my day just naturally, very second nature. Say, laundry is something that you really struggle with, I want you to know that at first, it might take some time to develop routines but once you do, you will be so thankful that you did.

I recommend doing a morning routine and an evening routine, and my evening routine is one that I am constantly kind of evolving, and really, one of my goals this month was to really create a more luxurious evening routine. I wanna make sure I’m spending more time on my skincare and maybe taking time to read for pleasure at the end of the day. Whenever you make a point to have these routines, the things that need to get done on a regular basis actually get done. And that is so much off of your own plate. Make sure that you are really using the power of routines.

Go Digital

Another thing that I started doing whenever I was looking for more time is I went completely digital with all of my calendar and task list. I am someone who loves planning and paper and pens and all these colors and highlighters and stickers and all of that, but I made the switch to more of digital planning because I needed something that could follow me around.

Whenever I have a calendar appointment, I have it on my phone. When I have a task that I need to list off, I completely have it all in one place. Whenever you have a digital way of planning things in a digital task list, one nice feature that you can do is you can set deadlines for specific tasks.

So if I have a task, it pops up in my mind, I type it into my app and what I’m using right now, I kind of have jumped back and forth, but the app that I’m using right now for my tasks is called Todoist, and one feature that I really like, I know that Apple Reminders has the same feature, is an inbox.

Anytime that I have a new task that I remind myself I have to do, I’ll put it in the inbox and then I can go back, look at that inbox and start to categorize and put deadlines on all of the tasks that are in there.

Say, I have three tasks in my inbox, one might be to complete some paperwork for one of our foster kids, or maybe meet with a friend for coffee or return something that I got on Amazon, I’ll put that in the inbox and then I can pick a day to complete that task.

Another great feature, whenever you go digital with your task list, is to really incorporate things like recurring tasks. There is paperwork every single month that I have to turn in for foster kids, I will set that for, say, the first or the second day of the following month, every single month so I’m never forgetting about it. And I have even had comments from our caseworkers and staff that I am great with paperwork but it’s because if it’s on that task list then I know it’s there and I will get it done.

Whenever you start to put deadlines on your tasks, it takes this huge brain dump of lists of tasks and things that you have to do, and it divides it up into something that is a little bit more manageable. As I look at my calendar, I can say, okay, on Tuesday I have tons of appointments, so there’s no way I’m gonna get all of these things done, so I’m gonna move some to Monday, some to Wednesday, maybe get something done the Friday before so that everything gets done in an orderly fashion.

Whenever you have a digital calendar, another feature that is really nice is that you can share that with other people. We have a couple of different businesses and one of our businesses has several employees. We have many calendars that happen with that, so anytime that I’m going to be away from our brick and mortar building, our office, I make sure to list my office hours so that my assistants can know, “Okay, Ashley’s gonna be in the office from 8:00 to 11:30, so I need to get all of my questions to her before then during that time so that whenever she leaves, I’m not calling her and checking and all of these things.” whenever someone has a birthday, I’ll put it on the calendar, again, with that recurring yearly. Whenever people ask for time off, I list it on the calendar, and because it’s digital other people have access to it and they can see, “Okay, if I wanna have my vacation, let me look at the calendar. Oh, wait, three other people are already gone that week, maybe I need to schedule my vacation for a different time.”

Whenever you have a digital calendar, what you do is you really automate a lot of those decision-making things for other people as well. You can share ideas and share calendars and events so that you make sure that you’re not missing anything. I really also like the ability to just change things around with a lot of white-outs or erasing things, things like that, and then it sinks across everywhere.

If you have not made the digital switch for your tasks or your calendar, make sure to do it. If you’ve kind of been a little bit hesitant to, please just make the switch. And what I would recommend is just to have both for a little while and realize that there are so many features out there now that you can utilize and really just check those out. So the last tip that I have for you is to realize that you don’t have to do everything.

I know that this might seem like a silly and very obvious tip, but realize that as a wife, as a mom, you’re wearing all these hats, and realize that you do not have to do everything. You do not have to give 100% of yourself to 100% percent of people. Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t wanna give 100% of yourself to different people in your life.

My husband and my kids, they know 100% of the time, they have access to me, but not everybody has that, not everyone can say that, because I’ve really set up boundaries in my life to say, these are tasks that I need to delegate, these are tasks that maybe don’t even need to be done at all. And then these are tasks that I do want to do that I choose to do. So whenever you start to break up your task list in that way, and really start thinking about the things that are on your task list, realize that you can reassess commitments and obligations anytime that you want.

If you find that there is an obligation that you have been part of, maybe a committee that you’ve been part of or something and you need to, it’s just taking up so much of your time, then you can decide, “Maybe this is not the best time for me to have this in my life,” or, “Maybe I need to step back from this. Maybe I don’t need to be so available to this committee as I have been in the past.” Whenever you do that, you become the master of your to-do list instead of it mastering you.

And that’s the whole point of this lesson and this teaching, is that you can control your to-do list instead of letting it control you because I believe that everything that has to do with time. See, we sometimes think of time as being outside of us, when really, it’s just us managing ourselves within the time that we have. And so if you’ve watched other videos, you know that that’s something I’ve shared already, but truly, that is at the root of the way that you think about time.

If you think about time in that way, everything else just kind of flows smoothly in your life. If you realize that it’s not just about the time that all these external factors that have an impact on you but it’s really about how you’re handling yourself within the time that you’ve been given.

How to Create More Time Workshop

So I wanted to take a second and mention that I have created a quick 20-minute on-demand workshop for you to learn how to make more time. This is something that I have really thought a lot about, I really enjoy teaching on mindset work and productivity, but really, the way that you think about time and your time management has to do with everything else, right?

If you have been someone who maybe you’re just wishing that time would stop and pause so that you can get everything done that you needed to get done or maybe you are tired of having to juggle everything, and it just feels like the things that are falling through the cracks or the things that never get done are the things that you really wanna do, maybe you’re sacrificing sleep or the joyful things in your life like reading for pleasure or exercising, maybe those are the things that are never really getting completed because there are so many other things that take priority, I want you to know that that doesn’t have to be that way. And so I have created a quick workshop.

Again, I want to value your time. And so 20 minutes is all it’s gonna take, 20 minutes that you invest in your time management can give you hours upon hours every single week. I guarantee you that this is something that can help you master your to-do list, and really learn how to manage your time, because if you manage your mind, you will naturally manage your time.

This workshop is completely free. You can access it by going to and check it out and just let me know what you think. I am really interested in hearing. Each month, we’ve been having a different topic and this month has been all about time.

We have one more video all about time that I’m excited to share with you but truly, it is my heart to help you to grow into the woman that you want to be, into the woman that God wants you to be, and a huge part of that is learning how to manage your time. So I hope that this helped. Let me know which of these tips you used the most, and I will see you in the next video.

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- Ashley Varner

it’s my goal to reach every Christian mom with the truth that God wants to transform their life by renewing their mind.

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