Woman filling out a planner that is sitting on her lap.

The difference between TO DO and DUE

Aug 30, 2021

There are those tasks, like balancing our books or scheduling social media posts, that seem to always linger on our TO DO list, but how often do we get them done and cross them off? Are you one of the rare people who does it before the last minute, or do you have a TO DO list full of tasks that suddenly become an urgent scramble when you suddenly realize that they are DUE? Do you want some ideas on how to avoid these panic-inducing realizations and keep your work or projects moving along smoothly? The key is understanding the difference between TO DO and DUE and organizing your tasks accordingly.

So first off: what is the difference between TO DO and DUE?

Due is pretty obvious. It is the specific time that a task or project needs to be completed. There are two kinds of due, though, that we often confuse. Recognize when you assign a due date that is artificial (or self-imposed) and one that is legit (like Tax Day). Both are important and have their place when planning out our work.

To Do is also fairly obvious, at least at surface level. It is any task or project that we want to finish and cross off the miles-long, never-ending list we keep so we can move onto the next thing.

Have you ever thought about breaking each task or project down into manageable time chunks or steps? For most people, this means breaking down a project into smaller sub-tasks (to do’s) that are anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour long. Next, work backwards from a larger task or project’s due date and assign each of those to do’s a due date. Now, using a paper planner, Google Calendar, sticky-notes, or whatever system you deem best for actually tracking and accomplishing these to do’s and due dates, map this all out. Then start crossing off your to do’s with less overwhelm, more foresight into what needs to get done when, and in chunks of time that are actually manageable for you and your schedule.

Admittedly, this works best for people who are task and detail oriented. What happens if that’s not you?

Take baby steps. Maybe it feels like too much for you to break every project down into little tasks and plan them out with precision.

  • Try setting aside a chunk of time (30 minutes to a few hours or more) in your calendar to make progress on the task BEFORE a looming deadline. Then work through the task or project naturally during that time.
  • Identify everything (or everyone) you need to accomplish the task. Make sure you have access to those items or people prior to when you urgently need them.
  • Figure out one small (less than 15-minute) sub-task you can do on an upcoming project or task. Get it done now.
  • Separate all of the items on your to do list that will take less than 10 minutes AND are due within the next 2 weeks. Then spend a power hour (or two) only working on those specific tasks. This will help to clear clutter off of your list and out of your mind. It can help you focus on larger projects and tasks once those smaller items are crossed off.

Want to learn how to make managing your TO DO and DUE tasks even more streamlined and less time consuming?

Use a project management software or platform! Does this mean you have to invest in some high-dollar platform? No. Over the next week, I will show you how to do this in both ClickUp and Asana for free. No need to upgrade to a paid plan. And if you’ve never worked within a project management software before, don’t worry! Although they are certainly very powerful and transformative tools for your business, they don’t need to be overwhelming or overcomplicated. I’m here to make sure your systems work for you, and this is the first step.

Have you ever thought about managing your work this way?

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