Surviving To-Do List Overload

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Does your to-do list have its own to-do list? Are you lying awake at night with endless lists of things you DIDN’T get done running through your head? Are people saying things like, “Gee, you look terrible. Are you getting any sleep?”

Thanks, I’d love to. But I can’t get my brain to shut up!

Maybe the problem isn’t your brain. Maybe it’s…ahem…you. You’ve unwittingly become a victim of can’t-say-no syndrome. Or, you’ve been taking too many B vitamins and think you can do the work of three people—in four hours. Over-achiever syndrome is the evil twin of can’t-say-no syndrome. Both of these will rob your life of joy and make you just plain crazy!

Maountains in Margau, Romania

Gaining perspective-Margau, Romania

Any of this sound a teensy bit familiar? Then welcome to my world. Hubby says I regularly try to schedule things into one day it would take a team of four a week to complete.

 So here’s what I do when I feel like I’m spinning on a top and I. Can’t. Get. Off:

1.  Take a deep breath. Hold it. Let it out slowly. Do it again. Simply forcing yourself to slow your breathing will ease that panicked feeling and calm your racing heart.

2.  Next, grab your to-do list (or jot one down if you don’t have one) and read it. All of it. From top to bottom. Give yourself a minute to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Really? All of this today? What am I thinking?

3.  Once you’re done laughing, get your pencil out and read the list again. Time for a reality check. What on it really, absolutely, positively MUST get done today? Pick one thing. Just one. Do that one.

 4. Enlist objective help. I usually ask hubby to help me prioritize my list. Within five seconds he pencils numbers by the important items and says, “Forget this other stuff. You don’t have time.” Now why didn’t I think of that??? 

5. Before you add anything back on your list, ask yourself whether it is important, or merely urgent. I get in big trouble when I confuse the two.

After that, I can get back to work, knowing I’m doing the things that are most important. 

That’s my strategy. I’d love to hear yours…

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    The Conversation

  1. Marion Cummins says:

    Great advice! Now if I can only get myself to write a list. I run around upset and overwhelmed because I don’t know what to do and where to start. Well, I just laughed and feel better and will PRIORITIZE. I waste so much time do stuff that’s not important.
    Now for me to get off computer-although I enjoy it, children and work must come first. OK, off the computer I go and we’ll see how much I get done, starting with list.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Marion–for me, laughing is always a great place to start! Then a realistic list! Hope you get lots done today!

      • Marion Cummins says:

        Kids have big lists of required summer homework that they started too late because of MY own procrastination. I had a knot in my stomach for such a long time, but started actually doing it with them instead of staring a large pile of work and it we are almost done with it. Feels great!

  2. Great article! This is definitely something we all struggle with. If I can’t get my writing done for the day I try and do a 10 minute freewrite instead of 1,000 words. It keeps me motivated when I don’t have the time!

  3. P. L. Parker says:

    I usually have too many things to do on my plate. My husband keeps me in balance. He insists I quit on the computer (I sometimes forget) long enough to take a nice relaxing bath and to sit and watch TV (which I find relaxing) for at least an hour every night. But for him, I’d glue myself to the jobs to do and be so wired by the time I went to bed, I’d have too many sleepless nights.

  4. Great suggestions and I’ll try to remember them!

  5. Calisa Rhose says:

    I so hear ya on this Connie. I constantly have to breathe deep and prioritize my list. Thanks for the other helpful suggestions.

  6. Nancy Cohen says:

    Stay off the Internet. That’s the biggest time sink. Scan your email and answer only those messages that need an immediate response. Delete what you don’t need and save the rest for another time. Set a daily writing quota and do that first.

  7. Ruth says:

    Great advice, Connie. Focus on what’s really important. I don’t think my last thought on my deathbed will be “At least I finished my ‘to do’ list”.