Three Boxes of Local Strawberries
These were kindly given to me by my mom yesterday,
but they’re now impatiently waiting for me to make jam with them.
Do you ever have one of those days where everything on your To Do list seems totally overwhelming? And overnight, it seems, those days turn into weeks. Even a month or two….
Well, here I am nearly three months after the move, and there are a LOT of things on my To Do list that have been there for a long time. I have a blogging to do list, as well: I have a list of literally a couple hundred ideas for articles, just waiting to be written.
But I am just one person. So as I add new things into my life, like the blog and local community-building, it’s important for me to stay organized, stop doing things that aren’t as important to me but keep doing things that are important to me, and continue to run through my To Do list.
The Strawberries 10 minutes later, laid on a cookie sheet to be frozen.
How I Tackle My To Do List….
And Keep From Becoming Overwhelmed
1. Keep putting things on the list. Just because your list is long, doesn’t mean you should stop putting important things on the list. Having them in your head, where you’re trying to remember them on top of trying to get everything done at once – that’s a surefire way of becoming overwhelmed.
2. Prioritize. Give things a priority: Low, Medium and High should be good enough. High priorities for me tend to be the most imminent ones, the ones relating to work (losing a job would cause more problems), and the ones that relate to close friends and family (ie, you don’t want to lose friends because you didn’t have time to do something important for them).
3. Knock off at least one High Priority per day. And two per weekend day. Do it first thing in the morning, before you get started on the rest of your day. Then you’ll relax a little more for the rest of the day, since it won’t be hanging over your head.
4. Keep the Medium and Low priority items in order. For instance, as you knock off one item, the next in line rolls up to be done. As you think of something new, it goes to the bottom of the list. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but the point is that you do not want one item to remain at the bottom of your Medium priorities for eternity. An alternative is to move Medium priorities up to High if they’ve been there more than 1 week.
5. Knock off at least one Medium and one Low priority per week. And if they’re quick ones, do one per day.
6. Don’t stop doing things that are pleasurable. If you’re stressed out and watching a movie lowers your stress level, go for it. But before you watch a movie, stop for five minutes and tackle one small thing on your list. Then check it off and enjoy the movie. You’ll feel better.
7. If life gets in the way for a day, that’s ok. (Notice the rhyme – always allow yourself rhymes!) Some days, things come up non-stop and you just don’t have the chance to get out from under the day-to-day. Don’t beat yourself up about it. But the next morning, make sure you get up and tackle a solid, good item on your To Do list – even if you have to do it as the birds are waking up the neighborhood. You’ll feel better! (And you’ll sleep well that night!)
8. Save time doing everyday things. Do you make pancakes a lot (hmm, I know a few of you who do)? Why not double the recipe one day, and refrigerate the second half for tomorrow’s cakes? Need something at the store? Can you wait until you go on your long grocery trip tomorrow, to consolidate your trips? And even better, when you go shopping tomorrow, why not go to the grocery store, hardware store, library, and any other upcoming errands – all at the same time? That will save you gas and time.
When we were kids, my sister and I we assigned to do the dishes. I’m not sure who thought of it, but we used to challenge each other with “speed dishes”: essentially, do the dishes as fast as you can, without breaking anything of course! Amazing how much faster you can get things done if you put your mind to it. In my adult life, I’ve certainly used this idea for Speed House Cleaning, and just tonight I did some Speed Dishes. My husband and I enact the “Get In, Get Out” rule before going into a store. The idea is to go in, go directly to what you need, pay for it, and get out. This is not always the best way to live your life, but in a crunch, it saves time to do important things on your list.
9. Keep your head clear. Caffeine is ok (and for some of us it’s essential), but don’t binge our you’ll end up with a caffeine low soon afterwards. Exercise helps many people keep their blood flowing and ideas fresh. Stay Healthy (see #10). Breathe fresh air (outside, if it’s fresh, or artificially with a HEPA filter). Make sure you step outside for 20 minutes each morning, for your vitamin D (absorbed through your skin) and your circadian rhythms (stimulated by UV light).
10. Stay Healthy. Eat well and exercise. Don’t forget to take your vitamins and any prescriptions you normally take. Wash your hands before eating. Eat at least 3 meals a day, with whole foods (not processed), in regular intervals. Drink lots of water and avoid sugar and preservatives. Sleep at least 6 hours a night.
What About More Long-Term Lists?
Everything I want to do does not go on a To Do list. For these items, I tackle them differently. Visit the next post in this series: How To Keep From Becoming Overwhelmed — Part 2: Reaching Long-Term Goals.
What Do You Do When Your List Becomes Overwhelming?