I wrote this blog post a while back in 2017. Given the challenges of lockdown and the new reality of working from home for many people, it felt like the right time to update this post on productivity and one of my favourite productivity hacks. I hope that this post will be helpful to you too, if like so many people you’re currently spinning multiple plates. But remember: go easy on yourself. This technique can also be applied to home tasks and life goals generally, so if you’re furloughed right now or in limbo with work, hopefully there are still some takeaways from the macro/micro technique.
Why Macro to Micro To-Do Listing Can Greatly Improve Your Productivity And Lessen Feelings of Overwhelm
Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced feelings of overwhelm? *I’m over here with two hands up!*
We’ve all been there – seemingly a million and one things to do, and no sense of where to start or how to prioritise.
There are so many daily tasks which require your attention. Often it can feel like there is just not enough time to stay on top of your daily commitments and long term strategising.
In this episode of the Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher, Jenna’s Guest, Cottage Magazine editor Katie O. Selvidge shared how there are two people who need to ‘steer your ship’ in life and business: the captain and the lookout.
In this instance, you happen to be both!
In the interview Katie identified that so often we focus on the ‘captain’s role’ – this is the very visible output in your life or business. Perhaps this is your Instagram content, your blog posts, or whatever that day to day output looks like for you.
The ‘lookout’ is the person on top of the ship who looks ahead with a telescope to see what you have coming up. What do you need to plan for in the long run?
When it comes to staying on top of your tasks, you need to be able to work with both your ‘captain’ and ‘lookout’ hats on. And that’s where your macro to micro to-do listing strategy comes in.
Read on to learn about how a macro to micro to-do listing can greatly improve your productivity and lessen feelings of overwhelm.
The To-Do List Conundrum
I live by to-do lists – they keep me in check and focused on what I have to do.
The problem with daily to-do lists is that they have a very narrow focus. Whilst it’s possible to complete a whole day’s to-do list (and feel like a champion by doing so!) what you’ve completed in a day doesn’t always contribute to your over-arching goals. In life or in business.
Moreover, by focusing on a day at a time, it’s easy to place too many tasks on one day’s list. If your list is uncompleted (natural if you’ve overloaded!) it can lead to feelings of guilt. Guilt is not helpful. It sucks and it zaps your energy.
So, what to do? You like to-do lists, staying focused and acing your tasks. But you want to work towards your long term goals and create manageable daily tasks?
Here’s where the macro to micro to-do list theory comes in.
What Are Macro And Micro To-Do Lists?
Simply put – macro means ‘large’ and micro means ‘small’.
Macroeconomics for instance (putting my A-level hat back on here!) deals with the economy as a whole. And microeconomics looks at individuals and firms.
Macro to-do listing looks at the big picture.
Micro to-do listing looks at the everyday.
And the good news is – they work hand in hand.
When you’ve completed your macro to-do list/s, your micro to-do list/s will naturally follow.
How To Work With Macro To Micro To-Do Lists
1 – Identify Your Macro Time Frame
How does your life and/or business operate?
Do you have more weekly, monthly or seasonal responsibilities? Do you have a mix of them all?
If you work with multiple time frames (as many of us do) I suggest writing multiple macro to-do lists. Start with your longest period of time, and work your way backwards to your shortest time frame.
What do you want to achieve in a year?
How does this then impact your quarter?
How do your quarterly goals affect your monthly tasks?
And so on.
After noticing the benefits of macro to-do lists I’ve recently been working in a similar manner – with monthly, seasonally and even yearly to-do lists so that I can plan for the long-term future.
One of the most helpful lists I write?
My week-long to-do list which I complete on a Sunday.
I can’t tell you how beneficial this has been to increasing my productivity, helping my to focus and lessen feelings of overwhelm.
This weekly macro to-do list helps me to shape my tasks for the whole week, which I break down into smaller micro to-do lists daily so that I stay on track with what I want to achieve in that week.
2 – Write Down Your Over-Arching Goals For Each Time Period
During the time period you have allotted, what would you like to achieve?
Your goals are your ‘macro focuses’.
Each of your goals is then broken down into smaller – micro – tasks which help you to achieve them.
By knowing your goals first, every micro task can be allocated with the purpose of achieving them. This helps you to stay focused and work on tasks which actually benefit your business and/or life in the long run.
It can be all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the everyday, your macro focuses help you to cull unimportant tasks so that you can focus on the ones which will actually help you to achieve.
3 – Edit Your List
One of the greatest benefits of looking at a macro to-do list is that you get the space to really step back and look at your over-arching plans.
Is it reasonable to allocate ‘x’ amount of goals within that particular to-do list?
One thing which leads to feelings of overwhelm is over-loading yourself with goals within too short of a time frame.
By looking at the big picture you can asses what is reasonable to attempt to achieve in a given period of time.
If you notice ahead of time that your macro to-do list is looking overly ambitious, you can make a decision to edit it down or spread it out.
You may also notice that in order to achieve your over-arching goals, you need to seek assistance to make them happen.
All in all, by working ahead of time you give yourself the space to actually do this. And we all know how good it feels to be ahead of yourself. That for sure deserves a dancing señorita ????????!
4 – Write Micro To-Do Lists Formed From Your Macro List/s
Here’s where your micro to-do listing comes in!
Your daily to-do lists are informed by your macro to-do lists. You already know what your over-arching aims are.
By having an aerial view of what you need to get done in a week/month/season you can be more efficient with your time.
For one – you will write your daily to-do lists in no time, these can even be written ahead of time.
And two – because you have an over-arching view of what you need to get done in a given time frame, you can batch process certain tasks.
Batch processing means grouping the same or similar tasks you repeat multiple times for your business and executing them all at once. I like to do this with photography for the blog, for instance. Anything that you have to do multiple times during your ‘macro time frame’ and can be batched – my advice is to do so! It is a hugely efficient way to organise your time.
1 – Identify your time frame
2 – Write down your goals – ‘macro focuses’ – for that period
3 – Edit your goals
4 – Create your ‘micro to-do lists’ for daily tasks
What’s Your Take?
This one tip has helped me SO much over the years. It has helped me to stave off feelings of overwhelm, which in my eyes, is a big win.
If you are feeling in any way stifled by your current work load (or, y’know life load), please take a pause, have a cup of something delicious and begin to work on your ‘macro plans’.
This will help you to see the wood through the trees so that you can achieve all of the things you need to, and make your day to day tasks easier and more enjoyable.
If your mind and body are telling you it’s all ‘too much’ it is! Trust yourself and take action.
I’d love to know, do you write long-lead to-do lists?
How do you manage your tasks?
Love, Monica x
This blog post was originally published on May 15, 2017, and has been updated for 2020
Imagery by A Fabulous Fete