Sometimes it seems life is all about job lists. Making a new list, or finding a new method or app for list-making is energising. It gives the impression that all of the problems of life are now under control. You spend a few days thrilled that you’re on top of everything. And then a task or two doesn’t get done on the day they are assigned to. Or you put down too many things for one day.

I asked some friends if they had any lingering tasks that fell into this category and they came up with the following:

  • Organise photos taken at my wedding 8 years ago
  • Repair the guttering
  • Use a massage voucher
  • Change my ISA
  • Put a new light bulb in the fridge
  • Upgrade my phone
  • Replace the broken catch on the washing machine door

So what can we do about these tasks to clear then and make space in our heads, and in our lives for lovelier things, like reading, tea-drinking, playing with kittens, eating cake, and letter writing?

1.    Remove the task from your list

Chances are that if it’s been around for ages it isn’t urgent and you could just not do it at all. Or get someone else to do it. Could the organisation of wedding photos be delegated to another family member?

2.    Rephrase the task

Take a leaf out of Getting Things Done. If you haven’t done the task it might be because the way it is written offers no starting point. So ‘upgrade phone’ could be changed to ‘lookup number for the phone company and put in date to call’, or ‘log onto the phone company website and look at upgrade options’.

3.    Make a date to do it

When I had a backlog of tasks on Wunderlist I felt guilty every time I looked at my list. To deal with it I starred the long term niggling ones then so that they would appear on the same list. Then I removed the dates and made a point of tacking one every day. Sometimes I just needed to get on with the task. Sometimes I applied options 1 or 2 above. If the ‘one a day’ approach doesn’t suit you then set aside an hour to work through as many of them as you can. Just make it a short time so that you can stay focused.

What do you do to keep on top of your life? How do you get stuff done, and make time for the good bits?