Overwhelmed by Your To-Do List? Do This Right Now

Feeling like you have too much to do and don't know what to do next? This video breaks down the steps for you.

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In today's video, I wanted to talk to you about what to do when you're completely overwhelmed with your to-do list. I see this happen with everyone from my college students, they're really in the thick of it right now with busy to-do lists, and my clients to struggle with “I have all these things to do and I don't know where to start.” Since a lot of people struggle with this, I thought it would be a great topic for today. That's why I say, “What do you need to do if you're feeling overwhelmed right now?” Here's what you can do right now about your list.

The first thing would be, do you have your list?

Do you actually have it written down? Because a lot of times I find that people have a mental to do list. They haven't written it down on paper or kept it in an app on their phone, instead it just keeps circling around and around and "I have to do this and I have to pay that bill, I have to pay that bill." You say it mentally in your head but you don't have it somewhere on paper or written down, so that you could actually see it and know that it's there. It keeps popping up for you. Make sure you have that list. I'm sure a lot of you have long lists in front of you and so that's where the overwhelm is coming from. But sometimes I find if you haven't written it down, it then seem like, “Oh, this might be more manageable than I thought because I see it on paper.” It can help. If you're there, start with that. Start with writing it down.

Then, if you have it already written down and you followed that step, we want to break it up into categories.

This is a method that was made famous by Dwight Eisenhower, U.S. president, and it's called the Eisenhower Box. It's breaking down your to-do list into tasks into quadrants and so the quadrants are broken up by urgent, not urgent and important or not important. Okay. So, you have tasks that are urgent and important. On your long list, what do you have to do today?

What is something that is so urgent and important it must be taken care of?

This is usually having to meet a deadline today or by the end of the week for your boss for example. Those are urgent and important – must get done. Alright. Let's put those things on your to-do list. Let's put those up to the top. For a lot of people, I find that the list of urgent and important is lengthy, right? That they're constantly living in this world, “I'm only doing the things on my to-do list that are both urgent and important.” So, let's look at what else is on the list.

Do you have things that might be not urgent but you feel like they're important?

These might be things on your list like, “I know I want to exercise” or “I know I want to call my sister” and they're really important to you, but you know that if you don't get to them, the world will not end today. It's not urgent, and so, can you schedule that in? Can you decide – that’s what they say in this method – can you decide on when you will exactly do that thing? So, put a date on it. Put a time even too especially for something like exercise and can you start to build that in. We've been talking in past videos about how habits and new habits are fragile, but let's stick to what we have right now. I'm focusing on, “Okay, that a list I know I want to get to and here's what I'm going to make that happen in the future.”

The other quadrants on our list here would be things that are urgent, but they're not actually important.

We've made them out to be “I must do this right now” and it could be delegated to somebody else. And so, when things are urgent and not important, we want to delegate as much as we can and so this looks different for everybody. But, do you have to be the one that makes dinner tonight? Do you have to be the one that picks up the kids tonight? All kinds of examples around that. Do you have to be the one that does this task for your business? At work, do you absolutely have to be the one that does it? So, that's part of delegating so that it also gets off your plate. Imagine that crossing things off our to-do list so that it is on somebody else's plate.

And then, what’s our last quadrant, it's things that are not urgent and not important.

This is a hard one to recognize, but these are things like watching television for example, if it's not important to you. For a lot of people, it's just something they do to fill the time or all kinds of little things that we do. Do I really need to spend that much time on social media or do I have to go and do that? If it's not urgent and not important, we actually want to delete it, and again, take it off our to-do list. So, we're focused on those urgent and important things and things that are important but not urgent.

Again, to review, Eisenhower's Box has four quadrants:

Things that are urgent, not urgent, against things that are important, not important. All of your tasks, all of the things on your to-do list today are going to fit into those four quadrants. When you break it down that way, it helps prevent some of the overwhelm because we're deleting things off of our list, we're recognizing what has to be done today and we're able to start to think about “You know it is really more important for me to call my brother or sister. How am I going to start to get that into my schedule?”

Now I'd love to hear from you. Share your thoughts and questions below!