Overwhelmed by Your to-do List? Tips to Help You Do What You Got to Do


Overwhelmed by Your to-do List? Tips to Help You Do What You Got to Do

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I have so many things that need my attention I don’t know where to begin.

When I find myself in this situation, I can end up being more unproductive than ever. Thinking about the list of things to do almost gives me a mild heart attack on occasion. I start writing or typing it all out, so I don’t forget important items, and that makes me feel even more overwhelmed as the content spreads across multiple pages.

Now I know that most people will say that you should try to have a routine to help tackle a large task list. I can’t be that person because I don’t believe it’s for everyone. I hate routine. It makes me feel trapped and almost like I’m standing in concrete, unable to be free and make choices which evolve naturally outside of structure.

Is resisting it just being a baby? Maybe. Does it mean I need five minutes in the naughty corner? Probably. Secretly I do sometimes wish I was a fan of routine. I’m sure it would make life much more predictable. You know those people who do their washing on a Saturday and their food shopping on a Sunday (or a Thursday or whatever)? I’d rather eat a horse manure pie. Conversely, I do love a good tidy desk and all my files in perfect order though.

So how do you get through those times when everything piles up, and you don’t know how to be Superman/Wonder Woman? Do you force yourself to have a routine, or accept that you might not work best that way and ultimately surrender to the fact that you’re probably a bit variable (or adaptable as I like to think of it) at times?

Naturally, the way you handle these periods in your life will come down to the type of person you are. And perhaps a bit of self-discipline and/or routine could be just the answer. Some people say that we are fundamentally happier when we have a high level of self-discipline. All I know is that you have to be kind to yourself too.

So here are 3 things that I have found to have worked at times when I have a lot on my plate:

1. One step at a time.

All you can do is tick off one task at a time. Someone said to me years ago when I was studying my Bachelor Degree, “Every single job you do takes you a little bit closer to the finish line and ticks something off the list.” Knowing that gave me some comfort and I regularly find myself sharing this pearl with others to help them feel less overwhelmed too.

2. Prolific beats perfect.

I’ve always been a person who believes that if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I still believe that. But a course I did last year was preaching the benefits of prolific over perfect, and I must say, I think it has merit when it comes to just getting stuff done and not focusing on every little thing being flawless.

3. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. 

Some things are more important than others. There are ‘always’ some things that should be done before others in business. Start with the ones at the top of the list.

Is it possible to switch off the ‘monkey mind’ and stop mentally generating a million tasks for yourself? I don’t know, but I certainly haven’t achieved it yet, as appealing as that sounds. So, all you can do is what you can do.

“It is what it is”, as someone very dear to me once said. Some days will be easier than others to compartmentalise what needs to be done, and at other times tasks that are urgent will naturally take precedence over things that can wait. And if all else fails, head out to a café for a cuppa and take a notepad for your ideas. Stepping away from the craziness for an hour tends to put things in perspective. Cake helps too.

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  • Bronwyn Reid

    Periodically I get into one of these periods Bronwyn – where there seems to be so much to do that I get anxious and overwhelmed, and consequently get pretty much nothing done. And I do mean anxious. It can be quite debilitating.

    What works for me is using my time-sheet ruthlessly. In our company, we all use an electronic project management platform. We work on a Client/Project architecture, and allocate time in 15 minute blocks according to a defined list of Activities. I start a job on my to-do list, and don’t stop or do anything else until it is complete or it’s time to have a break. Email goes off, absolutely no social media, and I ask people who have a question of me whether it can wait until I have my next break. By doing this consistently (sometimes its hard because doodling around on social media is SO much easier), I’m gradually creating better work habits for myself – hopefully!. I am answerable to my time sheet. If I’ve been faffing around, I have nothing to show at the end of the day.

    Every now and then, if there’s nothing urgent going on, I’ll give my brain permission to wander around for half a day or so and indulge in some creative or learning activity and see where it leads me, but then I try to put it back to work.

    • Bronwyn Campbell

      Thanks so much for your comment Bronwyn (nice name by the way). Yes, the good ole time sheet keeps us grounded, doesn’t it. I like the way you allow yourself to do whatever you feel like every so often, balance is very important I believe.

  • Jennifer Campbell

    One task at a time,then it,s amazing what you can accomplish without being overwhelmed !! Great article Bron xx

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