When we have a lot of things to do at once or in a short period of time, it can become overwhelming and fill us with a sense of dread, convincing ourselves that we will never be able to finish it all. However, there are a few things you can do in order to reduce the stress that accompanies an ever-growing to-do list, as well as increase your levels of productivity in order to ensure that you accomplish at least some of the tasks on your list.
1. Just Do 5
The best piece of advice my therapist has ever given me about managing stress and overwhelming situations is by giving yourself the permission to “only do five.” Whether the task at hand is cleaning out a junk drawer or folding a basket of laundry, allowing yourself the option to stop after a small goal makes the intimidating chore feel much more manageable. Chances are, once you start, you’ll have found the momentum and motivation necessary to continue until you’re finished. But if not, that’s okay, because you’ve given yourself the permission to stop, and you’ll still feel good about accomplishing your goal.
2. Make a List
When you have a lot of things to do on a given day or in a week or even in a month, merely poring over them in your mind is enough to stress you out in and of itself. In addition, when you’re only thinking about them internally rather than physically writing them down, you’re probably counting the same task multiple times, making it feel like you have more to do than you actually have. Make a list of everything you have to do and cross things off as you complete them. The sense of accomplishment as you watch your lists shrink will motivate you to continue.
3. Start with the Small Stuff
Oftentimes, when people have a lot of things to do, they want to get the most stressful and time-consuming project out of the way first. Then, it will be over with and they can focus on everything else. But, the problem with this method is that it takes longer to do the big project and, if you’re anything like I am, you’ll be stressing about all the other small things the entire time you’re working on the project, and either your work will suffer or it will take you longer to finish, because your mind is preoccupied. So, by starting with the quicker and easier projects first, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction, watching as your to-do list shrinks quickly before your very eyes. That way, by the time you reach the big project, everything else will be finished and your stress levels will be lower, allowing your mind to truly focus on the largest task at hand.
These are just a few of the things you can do in order to manage your stress levels, but when it comes to stress caused by an overwhelming to-do list, I’ve found that these tips are the most helpful.