We all have times when it seems like there’s no way to accomplish everything on our to-do list in the time we have available. Like a bathtub filling with water, stress levels begin rising until they threaten to overflow.
Since I’m currently navigating the rushing waters of too many “do’s” and not enough “when’s,” let me share some fresh-in-my-mind tips on how to deal with the stress and stay on task:
Make a List
This sounds so simple you might be tempted to skip it but I’m serious. Get the swirling to-do’s out of your head and on to paper. When we keep thinking “I’ve got to…” or “I can’t forget to….” it creates open loops in our brain. That can make us feel vaguely guilty and confused, which is not ideal for productivity. Physically write it down so that your mind can process and make decisions as you do so.
Assign a “When” (But Don’t Lock Yourself In)
Julie Morgenstern said, “A to-do not connected to a when doesn’t get done.” I seldom assign a specific time for a to-do (unless of course it’s an appointment), but I do decide which day and general time slot it will get done. I find it discouraging to assign rigid “whens” and then have to deal with inevitable interruptions from my family. Often I do several things at once! And bigger tasks get broken up into smaller chunks, so I don’t want to write on a schedule “Clean desk for 10 minutes.” That’s just the way my brain works–I like freedom and flexibility, and I’ve gotten a LOT done over the years with that approach. When planning your “when,” group your errands, figure out when to multi-task, and take into consideration your energy level and the activities on either side of a task.
Clean Your Room
This may sound a little strange but I’m giving the advice based on what I did this very morning. My bedroom had gotten cluttered with piles. The bed sheets had recently been washed and the blankets were put back on the bed in the wrong order so the top one kept slipping off. The carpet needed to be vacuumed. I decided my “home base” should be orderly so it wouldn’t be nagging in the back of my mind. After all, this is where we begin and end our day. Thirty minutes of tidying, then paying a child to vacuum did wonders for my peace of mind.
Delegate or Postpone—or Both
I once wrote an impressive article on getting the kitchen ready for the holidays. It had great plans for deep cleaning and decluttering. After looking over the schedule with my husband, we (rather, he) decided that the kitchen job would be postponed. Later it dawned on me that I could hand many of the tasks over to my competent teenage cleaners and offer some financial incentives. It probably won’t get done as thoroughly but perfection is overrated.
Don’t Make a Mountain Out of Your Molehill
Sure, there’s a lot to do. But I bet if we check back with you a week from now the important stuff will have gotten done, whether you have an emotional meltdown or not. Rather than letting your imagination run wild with embellishments to what you actually have to do, see yourself calmly accomplishing your list. Sometimes we create anxiety even when everything is handled, just because that feels normal. Harness the power of your imagination to think about how great you’re going to handle everything!
No matter how many lists you make, you’re still going to have to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Tell yourself the truth about what really needs to be done, then cross the rest off the list. That in itself is freeing and stress-relieving. When you feel the water levels of stress rising all around you, pull the plug by using these tips to stay calm and get things done!
How do you get your “too much” done? Give us your best “keepin’ it real” tips!
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