Ep #53: How to Schedule Goals and Actually Get Them Done

Never able to complete your to-do list? Already overwhelmed by the goals and resolutions you set for this year? It can be so easy to lose momentum, but I have found a way to move through these blocks and I’m going to share that with you on today’s podcast. I’ve got some great ways to set yourself up to succeed through tips and tricks that help with task management.

I talk about the traps you can so easily fall into when it comes to goal setting and list-making. Then I talk about the importance of feeling accomplished and share some simple strategies to keeping your task scheduling simple and effective. I’ll give you some ideas for some awesome task management tools and how to find what system works best for you.

Listen To The Episode Here:

In Today’s Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • The downside to the never ending to-do list.
  • The importance of setting yourself up to feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • What is a bullet journal and how it can help you get things done.
  • Why it’s so important to keep things simple.
  • The dos and don’ts of what to put on your calendar and what to save for your journal.
  • The importance of planning fun and downtime as well.

Featured In This Episode:

Get The Full Episode Transcript

Read the Transcript Below:

Katrina Ubell:      You are listening to the Weight Loss for Busy Physicians podcast with Katrina Ubell, MD, episode number 53.

Introduction:        This is Weight Loss for Busy Physicians. The podcast where busy doctors like you get the practical solutions and support you need to permanently lose the weight and feel better, so that you can have the life you want. This is the resource you’ve been looking for to guide you on the journey to overcome your stress eating and exhaustion, and move into freedom around food. Here’s your host, Dr. Katrina Ubell.

Katrina Ubell:      Hey, my friend! How are you? Welcome to the podcast. Welcome to episode 53. I’m so excited to have you join me today, while I talk to you about some really good life changing stuff. I can’t wait to share this information with you today.

But, really quick, before we get started, a couple of things. One thing I wanted to mention is something super exciting. Miraval is coming up in about a week and a half, so for those of you who’ve been listening, you’ll know that I am speaking at a physician wellness retreat at Miraval in Arizona in, what is that, about a week and a half or so. I had mentioned early on when I first was talking about it that we could possibly meet up, right, if you wanted to meet me in person a little bit in advance, then we could do that.

What I wanted to let you know is where we’re going to meet up, if you would like to do that and you are coming to the retreat. The day it starts is Friday, January 26th, and I’m going to be there on Thursday. We’re going to have dinner on Thursday, because all the food is included. Then after dinner whatever time that ends up being on Thursday, I am going to head over to what’s called the Brave Bill Lounge, which is basically their bar. There’s apparently a lot of chairs and couches and comfortable places to sit, and we can hang out and chat and do whatever we want to do. I’ll hang out there for a while until everyone who’s wanted to come has come or we’re tired, we want to go to sleep or whatever we want to do. Thursday, January 25th at Miraval in the Brave Bill Lounge. I can’t wait to meet you! It’s going to be so fun.

Alright. Also, iTunes reviews: over 300 now. Getting a lot closer to that goal of 500. Thank you so much. Now those of you who have been listening to me for forever, many of you, I know, have tried to do these reviews on your phone and it’s not going through. Apparently this is just some issue. I don’t know. I don’t know how to fix it. But what it do know is if you are willing to open up iTunes on your computer, which is fine if you have a PC or Mac, it doesn’t matter, either way, then you are so much more easily able to leave a review.

You just go into iTunes, search for Weight Loss for Busy Physicians, then click on the little square image of my face, and then you’ll see a little area at the top that says Ratings and Reviews. You click on that and that’s where you’re going to be able to leave one. Super easy and I think that now we have this kind of figured out. Think we’re going to be able to speed along to that goal of 500 reviews very, very soon. I would totally appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind just leaving me a couple lines, or one line, or a phrase. I mean, whatever, about what you think about the podcast, that would be super, super helpful. It really helps the podcast to be able to be found by other people, other physicians who are looking for some help. If you wouldn’t mind doing that, I would really appreciate it.

Now, the review I wanted to read for you today is by Boy Mom, MD. And her title is I Can Do This. Which, I totally agree, you absolutely can do this. This is what she writes: This podcast has been a game-changer for me. Using Katrina’s nuts and bolts suggestions for reframing my thinking about my weight, and then she puts and quotes and parentheses, simply my gravitational pull on the earth. I am exercising regularly and watching the scale move decisively for the first time since the kids came along. I’ve shared your podcast with my patients and urge you to give yourself this gift. Thanks, Katrina from one mama doc to another. She sends me the little emoji of the little blowing the kiss with the heart, and so I’m sending you one back, Boy Mom, MD. That’s fantastic. Thanks so much for that review.

Okay, so guess what, today is another special podcast, because I have another little freebie for you, another thing for you to download that’s going to be really, really helpful I think for a lot of you. I want to make sure you listen to the end of this podcast so that you can get the link for that, so stay tuned for that. If you’re a regular listener of the podcast, you know that episode 51, the beginning of January this year, the new year, I talked about new goals and how to make them happen, and I talked about why I don’t think that resolutions are really going to give you the results that you want, but new specific goals definitely can have that effect, giving you those results that you want. Now we’re into the third week of the new year. If you applied what I talked about in that episode and you set some goals for yourself and you started calender-ing things that you need to do, breaking it all down, what you might find is that you have a whole bunch of new goals, you’ve broken them down into tasks, and now you have to actually do these things, and you might be a little overwhelmed.

That happens for a lot of people. They’re super jazzed, they can’t wait to do it, and they’re like, a couple weeks in going, how am I ever going to do this, this is never going to work. It’s way too much, what was I thinking? What I often ask myself is who thought this was a good idea? I hear this all the time from my clients that they are never able to complete their to-do list, they never feel like they are quote-unquote caught up, they always feel like they’re behind, like they’re not measuring up, they’re not completing the things they need to complete. I totally understand this, this resonates with me so much because I felt the same way for so long, just never feeling like I could move really forward with things in a meaningful way. I might get a few steps forward, but then I’d lose momentum, I’d get busy doing other things, and then before I knew it, I just basically had forgotten about it and hadn’t made any progress at all. About a year ago, I figured out a way to move through this that has really, really helped me, and I can’t wait to share that with you today.

What I used to do, I mean, I’ve tried so many different things, seriously. I used to have an ongoing Google Doc list that was my ongoing to-do list, and so I would just delete things off of that list as I completed them, but then adding more things as I went along, trying to keep it in some semblance of order, which sometimes wasn’t good. That didn’t last for super long. I did it for a few months, but it just didn’t seem like it was very helpful. I just never got to a blank page, right, we know how these things are. I used to just have random slips of paper, random lists every day. I would rewrite tasks day after day, right, because they wouldn’t get done. I’d say okay, today I’m going to do that, and I wouldn’t do it. Then the next day I’d rewrite, wouldn’t do it. Next day, rewrite it again. Oh, this weekend I’ll do it. I rewrite it for the weekend, nope, still didn’t get done. I just never really felt accomplished, like I had that sense of accomplishment, and I never felt done, I never felt finished. There was always, always more to do.

One thing I want you to understand is that the sense of accomplishment that we get when we complete things is really important for us as humans. It’s one of the natural pleasures that we experience, and what that means is it’s not heightened in some way or manufactured in some way, it’s good, clean pleasure, so it gives us the results that we want. It’s important that we set ourselves up for feeling this accomplishment on a very regular basis. Many of us are looking for excessive pleasure from food and alcohol or other things. We take that away, because we’re not over-eating or over-drinking anymore, and now all of a sudden, we don’t get as much pleasure. We have to figure out where to get it from, this is a fantastic place to get it from, because you can get it every single day if you set yourself up for success.

I used to be this big productivity junkie. I would constantly be reading these books about productivity, listening to podcasts, doing courses about productivity and organization and thinking about ways to be more productive, and not really ever being more productive. It’s so interesting, right, how that works. About a year ago, I took a bunch of different ways to be productive that I had learned, and one new more dominant way to organize things, and I mushed it all together, and I found a way to manage all of my tasks and it’s completely changed my life. I cannot believe what I’m able to accomplish on any given day because of this, and I really want to share it with you. Now, I do want to say that please don’t think that you have to do it my way exactly. If there’s a way that you want to modify it so it works better for you, fantastic, please do that. As I’ve said, I’ve taken bits and pieces from multiple different areas and mushed them together to make it work for me, but I just want to share with you what I do that allows me to get so much done in a relatively short amount of time, and then I get that sense of accomplishment on a regular basis.

Like I said, there’s bits and pieces from multiple systems here, but the main source for me here is the Bullet Journal method. If you’re not familiar with a bullet journal, you can go to bulletjournal.com, and I have the link for that in the show notes, which you can find at katrinaubellmd.com/53, the number 53. I really want you to caution, now listen to me. As I say to my kids, listen to me now, listen. Don’t go look up a bunch of stuff on YouTube or Pinterest about bullet journal. Please do yourself this favor, okay? Do not fall down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling and get totally overwhelmed and then immediately think you’re not doing it right or well enough and then you don’t do it. Okay, the thing with a bullet journal is that there’s a basic framework guideline for how they recommend you use it, and then people have taken this and have completely expounded on it for themselves, which is fantastic, but for most of us, we’re not going to want to do that, and doing that will not serve us.

What I mean is that you can go on YouTube and find these videos of people just artistically decorating their bullet journals in this beautiful manner, I mean, so pretty. The people who do the script, the hand-done script, just beautiful, beautiful work, all decorated up, so it’s gorgeous, okay. That is not one of my strengths, and so I just don’t even think about doing that. I don’t, every now and then if I want it to be pretty, you know what I do, I take a colored pencil and I write the day of the week. I’m totally serious.

It really is super, super simple, the way that I do it, and I want to really encourage you to just get this working for you. Then if it’s a hobby for you to be a little more artistic or print out pictures and tape them in or whatever you want to do, that’s great, that’s absolutely fantastic, but when you’re first getting started, keep it extremely simple and actually apply the method to your life so you’re getting a bunch of things done before you start doing this extraneous decorating and idea seeking. This is kind of like constraining your food, you’re not looking for lots of different recipes and things like that. Same thing that I have going on for you here. Do not let yourself look for all these different ways to bullet journal, just constrain it down and stick to the absolute basics, especially when you’re first getting started.

Now, if you go to bulletjournal.com, the first thing that comes up is a basic instructional video that you can click on. I do want to recommend that if you’re interested in trying this that you do watch that. It’s not very long, it’s kind of fast, so you might want to watch it a couple of times, but it gives you the basic idea of a bullet journal. This is totally free, you don’t need anything special, don’t have to pay any money for this. You can watch that video, see what they’re talking about, and I think what I’m talking about will make a little bit more sense. Even if you don’t watch the video, you’re going to be able to apply this.

In this system, there’s three components to this. Number one is your calendar, number two is your monthly task list, and number three is your daily task list. Your daily task list is basically your to-do list, okay. You can call it the daily task list just differentiate that just so you know what you’re doing for that day. Let’s pieces these out one by one. Your calendar, I think everybody pretty much has a calendar. Hopefully you’re really utilizing yours. I personally use the Google Calendar and I have it all connected with my husband, and everybody’s color coded, all the kids and everything, so it’s easy for me to see who needs to do what when, so it doesn’t look like all of their activities are things that I have to be doing.

I’ve tried so many different calendars, I used to be a paper calendar person for a long time, but basically doing the online digital calendar is what’s working for my family best, because I can access it all the time, so it’s the best way for me to be able to keep it updated. If I’m somewhere, oh hey, can you come at this time, oh let me quick check, I have it right there, because I’m just not going to bring my calendar with me all the time. I kept thinking I would, and I never did, and it just made me forget things, or it just made more work for me. It allows my husband to be able to see what I have going on without us always having to check in, or forget to check in and then we double-book ourselves. Ultimately, any calendar will work. However you like calendaring is completely find. I like the Google Calendar and the digital products better, but you’re welcome to use whatever’s working for you.

Then for your monthly and daily task lists, what you need is some sort of bound journal, so some sort of blank little book of some sort. It can be lined, it can be blank, it can be whatever you want, or you can do this on a digital product. I personally don’t do that, because I really do like having pages. I like flipping pages, like I’m someone who likes reading actual visual books. It just works better for me. I’m a very visual person, so it’s like if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Anything that’s hiding in an app, I’ll completely forget about. I’ll just never go in there. Plus, I do like not having to be on my phone constantly for this kind of a thing. I can just glance down and there it is. I understand not everybody’s like that, a lot of people like digital products. You can use just the notes app on your phone, keep it really simple. You could use a product like Evernote, or there’s so many different ones out there you could try, and really just however it’s going to work for you. Whatever you want to try, in my opinion really, the simpler the better, so keep that in mind.

I use a certain kind of journal that is recommended by the bullet journal people. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes, which you can find again at katrinaubellmd.com/53. It’s really not very fancy, it’s just a basic journal, but what it has that I like is it doesn’t have lines and it’s not blank, it actually has these gridded dots. They’re really, really faint, but it allows you to be able to utilize the paper a little bit better. You can keep your writing nice and neat and straight, but you have a little bit more white space without all the lines. I like that, you really don’t have to do it that way at all. It also has a little elastic on the end that holds it all together, so when it’s in my bag, it’s not opening up all over the place, and then it also has three ribbons for you to keep track of different pages for quick access. I like that, you absolutely do not have to get this one. If you’re like me, you probably have a bunch of other blank journals that people have given you or you’ve written in the first two or three pages, those would be just fine as well.

The key is that you find a size that you like. Mine mostly lives at home. I do bring it with me places sometimes, but for the most part, it just stays at home on my desk by my computer, and so it’s up to you, however you think you’re going to use it. You might try a couple things before you hit the sweet spot and really find what you like.

This is what you do. On your calendar, you keep track of all of your appointments. These are things that are time and day sensitive. This is meetings, kid’s activities, coffee with a friends, appointments, etc. Okay, so only put things on your calendar that you are for sure going to do at that time. If you have dinner reservations for date night, you would put that on there. If you have a sitter coming from a certain time to another time, you can put that on there, etc. Don’t put grocery shopping from nine to 10 AM on Saturday morning on your calendar unless you are most definitely going to go to the store at that time and be home with all the food put away by 10 AM. Okay, this is really important. Now, if you have a standing date with yourself, that nine AM on Saturdays is always grocery shopping time, great, put that on there on your calendar so that you don’t accidentally book something else for yourself on that day, because that’s when you always get that done. That’s totally fine.

I don’t think there’s that many people who operate in that day. Many of us are just like well, I can probably grocery shop this one day in the evening, or this day I can swing by after work, or if I can’t get to those, then I’ll do it on the weekend. If that’s the case, then don’t put it on your calendar, because what’s one your calendar, you absolutely have to do no matter what. If there’s a possibility that you’re not going to do it, do not put it on your calendar. It’s very important that you don’t fill your calendar up with a bunch of things that you’re never going to do, because your calendar, it’s done. We say it’s in the mail, like if it’s on your calendar, it’s as good as done, I will be doing it. It’s on there. Be sure that you’re very careful about what you choose to put on the calendar. Definitely putting on the things that you’re going to do for sure, and the things that you’re going to get done eventually, you can keep those off.

Now you go to your bullet journal or your whatever journal or your digital product to keep track of your notes. What you’re going to do is create your monthly task list. Now, if this is at the beginning of the month when you’re listening to this, then you just start a fresh page or a fresh note, and you start writing down for that month all of the things that you need to do. Now, since this is the middle of the month when I am releasing this podcast, you might decide you want to start this right away, but it’s not the beginning of the month, it’s totally fine, just do one for this month, and finish up this month, and then as soon as that month is finished, then you move to the next month and start a new one. You’re going to start that, and you’re going to put everything on there that you need to do. This is all of your obligations, okay, all of your personal stuff, all of your family stuff, all of your work stuff. Any obligation you have, empty your brain and make a long list, all the things that you want to do.

Now, some of these things might be things that you want to do in the future. Like, if you are thinking that you might want to travel to Italy or something, you’re not going to put that on your monthly task list. If you are pretty much deciding that this month, you need to contact a travel agent and come up with some budgetary restrictions and a basic framework for what your trip’s going to be like, then that for sure you’re going to want to put on your monthly task list, because that doesn’t necessarily have to get done today or tomorrow, but it has to get done this month.

Now, some things are going to have a due date. For instance, camp forms. Say your kids are going to camp and they have these forms and you need to turn them in on a certain day, you can put a reminder on your calendar for that day that they’re due, right, or the day before, or a week before if you have to get the forms dropped off at the pediatrician or something like that. If you’re worried about the due date or forgetting that or not remembering or being sure, then put the reminder on your calendar, but put the actual task of completing the camp forms on your monthly task list.

Now, say your kids don’t need to have the forms filled out until April, and you know that there’s some stuff you can’t even do until March because they need to have their check-up first, then you don’t even have to put that on your monthly task list for that. You can have even a separate list for backups or things you have to do, or you can keep your April list already going for yourself if you know you want to push that back. Now, I recommend just getting things done as quickly as you can and getting all the things done that you can. That way, things are complete, and you can give yourself that reminder for whatever, a few months in advance, to get the other things done that you need to do, but you can do it that way if you want to.

Then you just keep adding to this as you go along. There’s some things you’ll think of today when you apply this, and then in a week, there might be some new things that come up, or oh my gosh, I totally forgot, that one gift that I have to get. You quick throw that on there as well for the whole month as you go along, cross things off as you go along, and you’ll add things as you go along. Don’t write on the monthly task list a huge goal, or one big task that is made up of lots of different sub-tasks. Don’t write declutter the entire house on there. What you would want to do is break that up into smaller groups or tasks, especially ones that you think you can get done in that month. I mean, I think that if you maybe took a whole month off of work, you could probably declutter your entire house in a month, depending how bad it is or how much you have to do and other responsibilities, but let’s face it, for the majority of us, that’s not going to happen.

You might look at it like, well there’s this one section of the house I want to complete this month, or just five different things I want to complete, or something like that. Choose those and then break them down into smaller groups or tasks, and then put them on that monthly task list. That could look like declutter son’s closet, break down extra boxes and donate packing material, right, that could be one thing, if you have a million Amazon boxes laying around thinking that they might be useful, which they never will be. If you’re anything like me, I always want to save the boxes for things that we buy, like appliances, like kitchen appliances or like car seats. My husband’s always like, why did we save the car seat box for five years? I have no idea. Get rid of the boxes.

You could put on the list, clean off the top of my desk. Edit out kid’s clothes that don’t fit, right, you get the idea. Just these things that are discreet tasks that you could get done in a section of time. If it’s like clean off the top of my desk, if I say clean out my desk but I’ve got all these drawers and all this clutter and all these things everywhere, I might say clean off the top of the desk, clean out the bottom drawer, clean out the top drawer. Whatever it is, go through the inbox, things like that to break it down into smaller tasks that are more manageable.

I when I make my list for the month put a lot of things that I do every single month. I put every single one of the podcasts that I need to record on the list. As I come up with ideas and decide what they’re going to be, I write that down next to it. I don’t just write podcasts for the month, I write podcast number whatever, this one, the next one, the next one. Then as I go through the month I cross them off. I will put all kinds of little things on there, like sending an email, getting a gift. I just recently wanted to sign up for a global entry, so I’ve had that on there. Again, let’s not, I do want to get it done, but some time coming up, I’d like to do it. Got it done actually last night, it wasn’t a big deal because I looked, oh, I can just do that really quick, let me get that done.

Anything I need to write, I put on there. Anything I need to start planning, I put on there. Anything I need to learn about or research or find out more about, all of those things get put on there. The new things I’ve decided I want to do is learn how to read faster. I found this method that I want to try out and see if it can help me to read faster with good comprehension, so I put that on my monthly task list, because I don’t have a due date, but at the same time, if I don’t write it down, guess what’s going to happen? It’ll get lost in Safari on my phone, right, getting you have all these open web browsing pages, and then I’ll completely forget about it and I’ll never do it.

You write all those things out, and then your brain is basically dumped out. There’s nothing left in there that you’re desperately trying to remember, so you don’t drop the ball and forget. You can’t underestimate how much energy that takes to constantly feel like don’t forget that, oh yeah, I gotta do that. There’s a lot of anxiety in that too, a lot of fear that we will forget, a lot of worry that we won’t do it right and it’ll reflect badly on us if we don’t do it and don’t get things done that we’re supposed to do. This is a way of just helping your brain just be able to relax, because you know you have it all there on paper. You don’t have to worry about it anymore, because you’re going to be discreetly planning your time and your days, and it’s going to be right there for you.

Then on a different page, you have your daily task list. You start a little list for yourself for every day. That means that the night before, every night, you sit down for just a minute or two and you review your calendar for the next day. This is how you don’t forget about meetings and appointments and early pickup and things like that from school, because you have it on your calendar and you can go and review that. Then you see where there might be some gaps in the day for you to move ahead on a monthly task or a few monthly tasks.

Now, if you have a short day of work or a day off, you might have some big chunks of time. If you worked all day and you have a late meeting, you might have no time, and that’s totally fine. Then all you plan for is those few minutes to plan your next day and plan your food, and that’s all you have to do for that day besides going to that meeting and showing up for work. It’s really important that you know that, because what we try to tell ourselves is look at this, I didn’t get anything done today. What a waste of a day, all I did was work and go to this meeting. That’s not true at all, right? You provided incredible value to people all day at work and at the meeting as well, you went to this meeting. You did all the things that you were supposed to do and you accomplished them, so you can say that the day was a success. It’s very, very important.

Now, when you do have a chunk of time, even if it’s only like 15 minutes or more, you can get some things done. What you do then is you look at your monthly task list and you choose one thing or a couple of things that you know you can complete in that chunk of time. If it’s only a small chunk, like 15 minutes, maybe you literally just check your email and clear out some emails, or you go and respond to a couple emails that you’ve been needing to respond to, or you’ve been reading just one article out of the five that you need to read, right, like something like that. You can do just something small, or send a couple of texts. I seem to always remember that I need to text people at like 10:30 at night, and the next day I forget unless I write it down for myself, remember to text so-and-so about whatever, then I can have that calendar planned out for myself for that chunk of time to send that text really quick so I don’t forget.

What’s going to happen then when you’re looking at this list on your monthly tasks, your brain is going to try to tell you that you don’t know how long it’s going to take. We talked about that in the goal-setting podcast episode a little bit, right? Your brain’s just going to be like, well how am I supposed to know? I have no idea how long that’s going to take. I want you to really question that, because it’s really important that you decide how long it’s going to take, not the other way around where you just work on it until it’s finished. Think about if you said, I have an hour to declutter my kid’s closet. You’re going to be so much more motivated, you’re going to work fast and efficiently and productively, versus if you’re like, oh, I guess I’m going to declutter the closet, we’ll see how long it takes. Tasks will fill the amount of time that you allow for them. If you have all afternoon to clean out the closet, it’s going to take all afternoon. It’s really important that you look at it and go you know what, I can get my email inbox to zero in about 20 minutes, so I’m going to get it done.

Right, it’s the same thing with getting your records all finished, doing all your charting, EMR, if you haven’t listened to that podcast, go back and listen to that one. What you do then is you decide okay, I have 30 minutes to finish out these charts. I’m going to be super, super focused, I’m not going to be distracted at all, I’m not going to talk to anybody, no chit-chat, nothing at all, no getting up and getting a snack, no anything. 30 minutes I’m going to get it done, as fast as I possibly can while still doing a good job.

Now, you might be like okay, so then I plan for a million things and now I’m up way too late and I’m super exhausted. That’s something that you need to be smart about. You need to plan for your day ahead of time, so you need to plan and decide ahead of time when you’re going to go bed, and then you look at how much time is left. You fill in your day with all the things that you have to do, and then you fill in the gaps with things that are also important to you, spending time with the kids, making dinner, whatever you have to do, right? Opening the mail, putting a little laundry in. Whatever you have to do, those things go on there as well, so you’re not thinking that you can do 50 things in 25 minutes. That’s never going to happen, so you’ve gotta be really careful about that.

Then this is really it then for your daily to-do list. That task list is all that you have to get done for that day. Then the next day, what you do is you follow your plan, and you get everything on your list done. This is where I want to share with you the freebie. When I have a long list or lots of things I need to do, what I also like to do is plan my day out in 15-minutes increments. Now, before I lose you and you roll your eyes and you go okay, you’re off your rocker, that’s crazy, I want to share with you why it is not crazy. There’s first of all tons of evidence from people who research productivity that when you plan your day out in increments like that that you are so much more productive, and I have completely found that to be the case for me as well.

What I am sharing with you is the exact PDF that I use to organize my days. It’s actually kind of pretty. I had a graphic designer lay it all out for me, and it’s got different colors. I actually had a bunch of them printed and bound at Office Max, so I have my own little workbook and I just every day turn to a different page, but you can do whatever you want with this. You can even use this as inspiration and create something that’s going to work better for you. The reason why it’s so helpful is because it helps me to not forget things, to make sure I always know what I’m supposed to be doing at that time, and it is all decisions ahead of time, so I just don’t have to think in the moment, all I have to do is do. That allows me to keep my prefrontal cortex in charge and my primitive brain who’s like, I don’t feel like writing that email right now, it’s like, it doesn’t really matter, because I said I was going to get it done now, so I’m going to do it. Very important that you just get it done.

What it also helps me to do, the way I use this is when I’m planning for the next day I fill in all the things that I already know I have to do, for instance, things that are on the calendar. You might have on there 8:30 to noon, clinic, one to five, clinic, so that’s already filled in. You don’t have to go, I have this patient and that patient. You don’t have to do that, or you can say operating from seven AM until 3:30, and then you’re just guessing, obviously there’s a lot of factors that go into it, but you can be like yeah, I pretty much think I’m going to be able to be done at 3:30, and I have to pick the kids up at five, so that gives me an hour and a half.

Maybe I could run some errands during that time. Oh, what are the errands I need to run? I’m going to go look at my monthly task list. Oh, look at that, I do need to run to Target and pick up these things, I could do that at that time. Then you schedule that in. How long are you going to spend in Target? You’re not going to get lost and spend a gazillion dollars looking at scented candles and their latest shoes and new ways to organize the kid’s lunches or whatever. That’s not what you’re doing, look at the latest decorations, that’s what I like to do. You’re going in there with a purpose, you’re going to get that stuff, and you’re going to get out of there.

You can’t overschedule yourself when you’re doing this, because I already put down when I’m going to go to bed, I put down my food journaling on there, I put down that I should be doing my thought downloads and planning for the next day. I have all of that written down on there, so literally I have record podcast on my to-do list for myself today, and during this time, that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing is recording this podcast. It doesn’t matter that I felt like maybe I just want to hang out with my son on the couch, no. Now it’s time to record the podcast, so I’m just going to go ahead and do it. You may find that this is the most amazing thing. I really hope that you find it is. It helps me decide when I should wake up. I put wake up and meditate, I put showering and getting ready on there, getting the kids ready, getting out the door, going to school. All that stuff is on there, so I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at any given time. It’s so, so, so helpful, I just can’t even tell you.

You can get this PDF for free from me by going to katrinaubellmd.com/53download, so the number 53, and then download all mushed together. Again, katrinaubellmd.com/53download. Inevitably, something’s going to come up. I know what my brain first did with this, like what do you do when something comes up? It’s so interesting, because a lot of people say things just don’t come up. You don’t let things come up, and those people are not doctors. That’s what I’ve decided. They don’t understand that sometimes people try to die. Sometimes people literally have a medical emergency and they need our help, and we really do have to drop everything. How do we work that into this kind of a situation, right? Kids need us, we have to go to the hospital unexpectedly. Your sister calls sobbing, and you’ve gotta spend time consoling her, and you were supposed to be doing something else. What happens then? Whenever possible, you do it anyway. If you have to sit in the hospital and you’re waiting for the OR staff to get something ready, make sure you have your computer with you so you can bang out some emails, so you can clear out some of the things that you need to do. You can catch up on your EMR or whatever the things are that you need to do, make sure you’re prepared for some of that downtime.

Now, say you did think, okay, I’m on call, provided nothing happens, I’m going to do these couple of things, but it ended up being very busy and you were gone the whole time, now what? What you do is you push it to the next day. You can push it to later as well. That’s sometimes what I do if I don’t get something done during the day, then that means that I have to do it before bed, and I just bang it out as fast as I can and as efficiently as I can, because I know how amazing it is to have that sense of accomplishment of completing everything on that day’s list, and I know I’m not going to want to do it tomorrow either, so I might as well just get it done. Obviously sometimes that’s not possible, so you push it to the next day. When you’re making your list for the next day, in bullet journal language, you put a little right-facing arrow, like you’re pushing it to the next day, instead of exing it out as complete, and then you put the date for the next day, and you put that on there.

One way of approaching that is okay, you put it on the next day, but then you gotta make sure you’re getting it done first thing, or you might want to just put it back onto the monthly task list if you’re just not going to be able to get to it for a number of days. That can be helpful, say if you’re going to be on service for a week or you have a bunch of other commitments, you’re going to be traveling or something like that and you really just can’t get it done, put it back on that monthly task list to make sure that you still get to it as you go along.

Now, what I want you to be really careful about is not doing something because you don’t feel like it in the moment, or because you’re telling yourself you’re too tired, but then you end up spending an hour in front of Facebook or Netflix. If you have an hour to sit in front of Facebook or Netflix, you definitely have an hour to just get something done. What I often do when I really don’t feel like doing something, especially at the end of the day, is I’ll put on a podcast, and I’ll just tell myself, I’ll find one that’s going to be about as long as the task is probably going to take, and then I tell myself that I just have that much time to do it. At the end of it, if I’m not done, I can stop. Here’s the thing, you get into the podcast and you’re doing your activity, you’re doing the dishes, whatever you have to do, and before you know it, you’re done. You feel so good, and you got to have some entertainment from the podcast, so it’s really a win-win. Just remember, this is really an ironclad agreement with yourself that you’ll do these things, so don’t put it on your list unless you’re really willing to do it. Make sure you get it done and do it quickly and efficiently.

Then you’re done for the day, right? There’s your sense of accomplishment. It’s so wonderful. It’s really so important that you recognize that this is something that is good, clean pleasure that you can give yourself every single day. Then, what do you do after that? That night, you repeat the whole process. As you accomplish things on the monthly task list, you put a check or an X in front of that line, and then you look at the calendar for the next day. Plan out when you’ll have time to get some things done, look at your monthly list again, plug some things in, and get them done the next day. This could be a great way for you to catch up if you have a big backlog of incomplete electronic medical records. You’re just like okay, I’ve got 30 minutes right there, I’ve gotta work on my records for 30 minutes, and I’ve gotta go as fast as I possibly can. You can say I’ve got 30 minutes, I’m going to be able to get eight charts done in that time, or whatever it is, you just decide that that’s what you’re going to do, or dictate letters or whatever it is that you need to do.

I do want to really encourage you to try the 15 minute increment sheet, even if it’s just for the time that you’re at home or using it on weekends, you can play with it and see how it works best for you. I cannot even tell you how much I can tell when I’ve planned my day out ahead of time and when I haven’t. So apparent to me. The other thing that I want to make sure that you do is that you also plan for breaks and rest time and for having fun. You need to put on there time to do nothing. That needs to be on that to-do list. What I have a tendency to do is always wanting to hustle and just get everything done and do it super, super quickly. That totally wears me out. What I need to do is focus on getting things done in a discreet time frame, and knowing okay, after dinner, then I get to rest. I can read, I can watch TV, I can play a game, I can do whatever it is that I want to do. I can go to bed early, whatever it is that I want to do because I’ve gotten all those things done otherwise. Be very careful for that, that you’re planning for that downtime as well.

The days that I plan and I get to work and I get it done, I feel so much better and I am infinitely more productive. I cannot even explain how much more I get done. I know I worked hard and I got it all done. When I say all, I’m not saying all in capitals, not capital A-L-L done, meaning everything was done, because that’s not possible, but I did what I was supposed to do for the day, and I can let myself enjoy that natural pleasure of accomplishment. Even if you have a lot of setbacks or failures throughout that day, when you know you did what you said you would do on your to-do list or that daily task list for the day, you can’t help but feel like the day was a success. Don’t deny yourself this pleasure, it’s available to you every single day. Seriously, if there’s one thing, should have this put on my gravestone, remember decisions ahead of time are the secret to the universe. For your food, for your life, for getting things done, for all of it, so important. Just a reminder to get that PDF to-do list template for free, go to katrinaubellmd.com/53download. Have a wonderful, wonderful week, and I will talk to you very soon. Take care, bye-bye.

Outro:        Thanks for joining us on Weight Loss for Busy Physicians. Now, take the next step, and go to katrinaubellmd.com to download just what you need, the Busy Doctor’s Quick Start Guide to Effective Weight Loss. Join us again next week for more support to keep you in control and on the path to freedom around food.


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Showing 7 comments
  • Christine Pipitone

    Hi Katrina! Thanks so much for this and each one of your podcasts. I listened to most of them in the last couple of weeks and this is the first one I listened to on the morning it was posted. I love this topic, I have started incorporating some similar ideas at the beginning of this year but I LOVE the idea of having a SEPARATE daily task list which I think would help me feel “complete” and accomplished at the end of the day. It really is impossible to fully clear my running to-do list as many things constantly are coming up or can’t be done yet, but I want to try this idea of deciding ahead of time what things to get done that particular day and then do them. Thanks again!

  • Anne Marcovich

    Loved this idea and overall I am used to a calendar and organizing- I love your pretty daily to do lists.
    I would love to see an example of a completed day- ie cooking dinner, planning food for tomorrow, homework with kids, doing emails, searching for summer camps, etc.
    How much time does it take to do the list for the next day?
    Seems like it would be easy to get caught up in creating the monthly list and daily list.
    Thanks for all these great ideas and for sharing your to do list!!

  • Delane

    Thank you, as always, for the information provided here. I started implementing many of these ideas after listening to the “decisions beforehand” podcast. I have a planner that is working well and already implementing many of these concepts. I have been living by the mantra, “honor thy plan.” I have been able to really dial in my days and to-do lists. The issue I am running into: my husband complains about my lack of spontaneity. How do we “plan” for spontaneity? I appreciate all you do, Katrina! Thank you.

  • Annie

    Thanks for inspiring me to do this– when I last heard about bullet journals, I went down the Internet rabbit hole and got totally scared off!! The question I have is about the things that have to get done every day, ideally at the same time, but just have to happen: plan food, food journal, make dinner, meditate, laundry, practice piano with child, walk the dog, etc… I find that my daily task list gets bogged down with these mundane daily repetitive chores. Do you have a separate list for things that have to get done every day and aren’t going away (will never be checked off!)?

  • Hilary

    Hi Katrina- Thanks for this great organizational podcast. It was very motivating to hear and I am eager to start. I feel the pain of having a never-ending running “to do” list and it’s never completely all checked off, so I love the notion of a daily task list. Some days you just have more time to check things off than others. My question is how do you fit in your google calendar with your bullet journal with the PDF sheets you have posted here online (the 15-minute increment pages)? Do you keep your bullet journal in the same location as your bound daily calendar? Do you recommend we carry both back and forth to the office? A few more specifics would be helpful and I’ll listen to the episode again in case I missed this the first time around. Again, I appreciate your work and dedication and really look forward to my Tuesday drive to hear what you have to offer that week.

    • CKW

      I had similar thoughts in terms of how these all fit together and are not repetitious. Would love a little more detail and description of logistically how it works. Thanks!

  • Tulay

    Hi Katrina,

    Thank you for another selfimproving topic you presented to us. My question is the same as Hilary and CKW as noted above. How do you get your calendar and daily task list together? Are you carrying your bullet journal with you back and forth all the time. I started doing it today but it seemed to be a little hard to cary the journal with me all the time.

    Thanks as always.

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