What to do with Your Dreaded Carryover Tasks
The end of the week has finally arrived. And instead of focusing on everything you’ve accomplished, your brain immediately goes to the few tasks that didn’t get crossed off your list.
This habit of beating ourselves up when we don’t get it all done is an important topic for another time, but today, I want to focus on those dreaded unfinished tasks.
We all have them. And we all hate them. The things we didn’t actually accomplish during our week. I like to call them the “carryover tasks.”
I'm going to guide you through a process that I use each week to handle the carryover tasks to ensure that I'm making the right choices and actually learning from potential planning mistakes in the past.
Yes, I am a Time Management Coach. But that doesn’t mean that I plan every week perfectly. I'm human just like the rest of you and, well, life happens — especially as a mom and business owner. I am often left with a few tasks I hoped to get done that did not.
When it comes to carryover tasks, there are three reasons why the things we put on our calendars don’t always get done. Let’s break those down and then talk about my process for how to handle those tasks.
I will start by setting the scene for you...
You probably guessed it, but I’m talking about my beloved weekly planning process here!
Dealing with carryover tasks is actually one of the earlier steps in my weekly planning process. Once I've plugged in my current commitments and my unavailable time into my weekly plan, I go back and see if there is anything that was on my list last week that didn't get done that I now need to bring into my plan for the week ahead.
If you’re not currently conducting weekly planning, your automatic impulse is probably to put all of your unaccomplished tasks from last week directly onto your Monday to-do list. Best to knock them out early, right?
Not exactly. The problem with this is that you’re likely not taking into account the realities and priorities of your week. You create a ridiculous list for Monday that is completely unrealistic and you are setting yourself up for failure.
This is why it’s so crucial to figure out what you actually need to do with those carryover tasks!
When I am looking at the tasks that I had planned to get done, the very first thing I need to do is understand why it didn't happen. Depending upon that answer, this will impact how you handle your carryover task.
Here are the three reasons why you might have tasks leftover on your to-do list.
Reason #1: Something unexpected came up and forced you to pivot your plans.
Like we said before, life just happens sometimes! Your kid has to stay home from school because they got sick. Your car broke down. Your computer crashed.
When these things happen, you have no choice but to change directions and let tasks slide. And when this happens, I look back at those tasks and determine if they still really need to happen. If the answer is yes, I schedule them into my next week (not necessarily on Monday though!). And if not, I let them go.
Reason #2: You overbooked yourself.
Sometimes when I look back at my week, I realize that I didn’t properly account for how long tasks would actually take me or I got a little too aggressive in what I thought I could get done in a specific amount of time, and I overbooked myself. Again, this happens to even the best of planners occasionally!
The keyword there is occasionally. If this is happening week after week, learning how to better estimate and plan your time is going to be a huge win for you! Thankfully, I have a whole separate training on estimating your time.
Personally, because I've been doing this for so long, I rarely have carryover tasks from overbooking myself. And on the rare week when overbooking happens, I know going into them that I’m pushing myself and it’s okay if not everything gets done.
Reason #3: You simply didn’t want to do the task.
How many times have you looked at something that you didn't do during the week, and when you're honest with yourself on why, it's because you just didn't want to? We all have them, right?
I did this recently with my annual exam. I knew I needed to call and schedule the appointment, but I kept putting it off and putting it off. Not because I didn’t have time to call the office back, but because I really didn’t want to do it!
In those moments, I have to sit down and have an honest heart to heart with myself on what it is about this task that I don't like. Why did I not do it? Usually, it is one of two reasons.
One is it's just not something you enjoy doing. The case of my doctor’s appointment is a perfect example. I didn’t want to go, so I wasn't prioritizing my health. (BTW, shame on me, and I absolutely called the next week to schedule my appointment.)
The second reason is that the task is not in alignment with what you really want to be doing and you realize it’s not truly important to you, your family, or your business. Maybe you got “shoulded” into doing the task but it really doesn’t match your desires.
In these situations, give yourself permission to let the task go! You can intentionally decide NOT to carry that task over.
By taking the time to honestly evaluate why something has become a carryover task instead of just automatically adding it to Monday’s to-do’s, you can avoid those frustrating tasks showing up on repeat in your calendar.
Plus, this thoughtful time doesn’t take long (usually seconds!), and it can make a huge difference in your weeks!
Most importantly, this process will keep you from focusing on the things that you didn't get done because, oftentimes, it leaves you feeling like a failure.
I want you to shift away from focusing on what didn’t get done and instead, celebrate all that you did do!
No more beating yourself up over those carryover tasks! You’re just going to evaluate, replan, and get the important things plugged in.