Managing To-Do's

One of the best planning tools I use: My “bird’s eye view”

December 28, 2022

I’m Kelly Nolan.
I'm an attorney who'd been decently organized through law school but got quickly overwhelmed as a actual attorney. After nothing else worked for me, I created this system – and kept on practicing law. Years later, I found out others were interested in learning it, so that's what I do now! Let's get this realistic system in your hands so you can start living a life that feels more calm, doable, and that lights you up.
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If you don’t have a “bird’s eye view” of your work already, it’s relatively simple (though sometimes time-consuming) to create:

In short, compile a list of all of the work projects you’re on – external (e.g., client-facing) and internal (e.g., an internal committee you’re on).

You can use whatever tool you’d like for this – even as simple as a spreadsheet or word doc. Organize the contents however it makes sense to your brain. There is no right or wrong here. We’re just trying to get that bird’s eye view of all of the big projects on your plate.

In my attorney days, this would have looked like a list of:

  • Active litigation matters; and
  • Internal projects (e.g., being a summer associate coordinator; annual reviews – self eval prep, reviews of others; role on a committee).

Do what makes sense to you. For example:

  • If you work in corporate, you could list out the “substantive” big projects you’re on (i.e., those that make the company revenue or go to the substance of your job) and those that are more internal to the organization;
  • If you’re a physician, you could list out your general clinical rotations (e.g., “ABC hospital,” “ZYX clinic”), research projects, and committees you’re on.
  • If you’re a college professor, perhaps list out the courses you’re currently teaching, those you’re teaching next term, research projects, and any internal committees or projects you’re on.

Again, there’s no right or wrong. We’re just trying to help you start clarifying – even just for yourself – what your workload is. The first step of doing this is to create a high-level overview of what all the projects are.

Bonus tip: Also include a “backburner” column so you can tuck projects you’re deciding not to pursue there. This will help you let things go, knowing you have a system that will help you not completely lose track of the idea.

Next, we need to translate this list into something that gives you a better understanding of how much time each projects takes, when they’ll each happen, and how they all interact with each other and your overall capacity in the short- and long term. That is where the Bright Method really shines.

Regardless of whether you take it to the next level or not, the Bird’s Eye View is so valuable when it comes to managing your workload and planning your week in my recommended weekly planning session, the Clean Slate session. To read more about it, read this Fast Company article I wrote. We deep dive into it (among other practical strategies) in my 8-week Bright Method time management program. You can learn all about it here.

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