Independent Explorations

Goals, To-Do Lists, Overwhelm and Scheduling

I don’t know about you but my natural reaction to being overwhelmed is denial. Instead of starting somewhere, anywhere, I start a new season of Keeping up with the Kardashians. Hands up who knows the feeling of growing panic at a multiplying to do list? And attempts to address it by ignoring it? Yet it simply eats away at you. Always there in the background of what you’re doing that you should be working on your monumental to do list.

You with me? Yea, we can be friends.

Plenty of people advise, just start. Pick anything and get cracking. Get some momentum going. Starting is the hardest part. Put up your other hand if you’ve had internal conversations that go something like this:

“You can do this, just pick something…”

“…but what…”

“Anything, you know you’ll feel better…”

“…but there are so many options, so much to do…”

“C’mon women, anything!”

“…but I could do this or this or….”

And round and round the mental merry go round we go.

There is a way to hop off.

The secret lies in having some decision criteria. Something to cut through the noise and narrow down the options. Once you know where to start, getting going becomes so much easier. Essentially it boils down to this:

  • You need to identify what are the most important things are
  • What’s important is what moves you closer to your goals

So the secret to managing to-do list overwhelm (let’s be clear here, different kinds of overwhelm require different tactics), is to be goal oriented. Each project you’re working on should have a major goal, or reason for completing it, broken down into smaller goals that are milestones along the way. With these goals, work through your to-do list. Everything that progresses you towards those goals, get’s scheduled. Assigning a time to complete tasks increases the likelihood you’ll do it and mentally allows you to relax because you know there’s a time it will get down. Everything else on the list gets parked, deleted or delegated. There will always be things you need to do but don’t directly move you closer to your goals. Schedule these in too. Just prioritise the other tasks.

Feeling less overwhelmed? Feeling like you’d quite like to keep it that way? If you maintain a regular schedule of checking in, reviewing your goals and scheduling the work, to-do list overwhelm can be a thing of the past. I do weekly and monthly check-ins. At the start of each month, I reflect on the previous month and set goals for the coming month and break these down into weekly objectives. Each week, I pick three to four objectives to focus on and schedule these in (in erasable pen in case life throughs some curve balls my way).

Every time you feel the overwhelm creeping in, ask yourself, ‘what is the one thing on my to-do list that will make the biggest impact on achieving my goals?’

Start there.

P.S. Do you want to know why it’s better to schedule tasks rather than have a to-do list? Let me know in the comments.

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