Stop Stressing Over Your To-Do List!

Life can get a bit overwhelming at times. I know I’ve felt it. Try as you like overwhelming times happen to all of us, those times when everything just seems to build up into one giant never-ending list of things-to-do and you feel like you are never going to catch up and get everything done. Those times when, short of hiring a JCB to bulldoze the piles of paper and commitments, your just at a lose-end as to where to start or how to go on.

It hard when these times are upon us. All we really want is to curl up in a ball with a shot of something alcoholic and watch re-runs of ‘Friends’. But we know we can not. Because we’re adults, and things still need to get done no matter how overwhelmed they make us feel.

But what can we do to avoid this feeling? Or to combat it when it does arise?

First things first….


Lists are always a good idea for keeping track of tasking and making oneself motivated to do things. But they can also be the source of our pain when we are drowning in overwhelm. They act as a continuous reminder of all the things we have yet to accomplish and just leave us feeling drained and frankly a little bit stuck.

So I have two tips for you regarding lists. One is the To Do List and the other the To-Done list.

The Art Of Breaking Things Down

Whilst some organization and productivity gurus might recommend a ‘Not to do’ list, I would rather focus my time on getting straight to the heart of the problem and start shoveling some of the crap off of my to-do list straight away. The first way is wit your basic To Do List, but with a twist.

You can, of course, do this handwritten on a piece of paper, but I prefer to open a word document and just type as quickly as possible all the jobs that come to mind. This allows me to not only keep up with my thoughts but to avoid scribbled eligible lists that I can’t make sense of (another form of upset when you’re in a hurry) and also allows me to move items about easily should I need to.

Once the list is complete I print it and gather my rainbow of highlighters. I then use my planner key that I have assigned to certain tasks such as cleaning, writing, work and study to select all said relevant topics in their selective colors. This then provides an at a glance list of all the things I need to do, broken down into their categories to allow for batch work. As we all know doing like for like tasks together is a time and motivation saver and can really help you to see what items are important as you go throughout your day.

The To-Done List is just as the name implies (stands for Today’s Done). This is where you can list off things on a spare piece of paper that you have accomplished during the day. And for this I mean everything, getting up, cleaning your teeth, taking out the bins….This is your reward system that is going to help you get re-motivated when you see just how much you have accomplished. And it doesn’t matter if watching a few episodes of some soap opera is on there too, after all this is about fighting overwhelm, not burning out.

Fake Facebook

This one works really well to make you see what you can get done in a day, you also don’t have to actually write it done for yourself, you can tell a friend in a text or update your Facebook status with a little pat on the back of encouragement as a reward for getting some stuff done (but you know, only after you did it).


Next, after the gargantuan list has been born, we need to focus on priorities. This in its way creates a separate task category from the other areas we spoke about but this is basically just things that need to get done first. And yes, walking the dog can go here, as can making dinner and anything that revolves around general living. Anyone who assumes that the day to day stuff is not a priority is going to find themselves in for a world of hurt when those priorities come back to bite them in the backside.

Remember, never downgrade an item just because it might not be someone else’s priority if its important to you or relevant to your intimidate life, it’s worth being on your priority list. For example, an item that always falls off of my to-do list is my blog whenever I am very busy. This is because a lot of people I know refer to this am ‘my hobby’ and it tricks my mind into thinking that my blog is a task that gets done when there is nothing else to do. But my blog is important to me and so despite encroaching deadlines and demands on my time, it was the first priority on my list for the day today, to aid me in refocusing my priorities.

Other things to include would be deadline items, such as bills or turning in an essay. And trust me, once these things are done, you will feel the weight of overwhelming start to lift and that to-do list will have just gotten a whole lot smaller and easier. Hooray!

One last thing to also include on your to-do list is breaks. Do not skip your breaks in favor of trying to get more done. It is not worth it. Let this Zen saying be your guide here and remember:

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

One Step at A Time

Now on to the hard part. Learning to let it go and remember that we all only have so much time in a day. This is probably the hardest thing on this list but I promise you this is the best way to get over all of the ‘things’ you need to do.

You can only do one thing at a time anyway, but your brain has a nasty habit of reminding you constantly of all the other things that need to get done, so much so that everything seems so pressing that the pressure just builds up and you want to run away.

Let it go. Turn on Frozen and belt it if you have to but just…let…go…

When there is so much to do that not everything will get done, we have to just celebrate what we did achieve. There is no point fretting about everything if there is nothing you can actually do about it, or thinking to yourself ‘oh if I work harder or pull an all-nighter’. No. Just don’t even go there.

It may be hard to see at first but if you do take each task one at a time you will actually get through them all much more quickly then if you try to multitask or stress yourself out over what you need to do.

This advice, though simplistic at its core, is a real lifesaver when you’re facing a menacing amount of work.

I know I have needed it this weekend and the coming weeks ahead and I’m sure there has been a time in your life when you’ve needed it too.

No one person is perfect nor can one person accomplish everything all of the time. It is just not plausible. But remember this – no matter how daunting it may seem, and the end of the day, a to-do list is just that. A list of things to do. It’s not the stuff of nightmares and it should certainly never affect your health.

So give yourself a break and take things one step at a time.


10 thoughts on “Stop Stressing Over Your To-Do List!

  1. Great advice!! I’ve learned at my day job that if I don’t make lists of what needs to be done each day, I get anxious about forgetting things. Weekends when I seem to have a huge to do list, I do the same. Keegan my brain straight and I have the added benefit of satisfaction as I cross each item off!

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