Overwhelmed? Make a To Do List

With a seemingly endless number of tasks that need to be completed within the next two weeks, at present, I feel paralysed into inaction. We have just a few weeks left in our current house before moving to our new home by the sea and also, in that time, we both have to wrap up and hand-over our days jobs and attend to a whole multitude of outstanding things before the, now looming, deadline.

There are so many people to whom we need to write and so many little jobs to do that it seems difficult to decide where to start; and that feeling of being overwhelmed can have that very unhelpful counterproductive effect, at least on me, of producing complete inaction. It is something that is not uncommon with people who are working under a certain amount of pressure. The feeling is that anything completed will just be a drop in the ocean.

You have probably felt like that at some time. You have had so much to do that any short-term effort seems like it just won’t be enough to even make a dent. You know that the various tasks you have before you all need to be completed, but the business of getting yourself going is difficult. I suppose this kind of inaction amounts to a kind of metaphorical burying of your head in the sand. You know that the situation isn’t going to change until you actually do something, but right now, you aren’t actually doing anything productive.

Well, this situation reminds me of a solution that I believe was once proposed by Brian Tracy, “Feeling listless?” he said, “then make a list.” So that is exactly what I am going to do and it is also what I suggest you do when you are feeling overwhelmed. Sit yourself down and make a list. Put absolutely everything you need to accomplish, before your deadline, on that list. Then prioritise the list get it into the order of most important first, down to least important last.

Just the process of making that list will make you feel better about the situation. For a start, it allows you to get a quick overview of exactly where you are. In other words, the task will seem smaller just by the action of making the list. Once you have your list, you can start at the beginning and work your way down, at your own pace, crossing items from the list as you go. This will give you a sense of progress and a feeling of being in control.

Once you start working your way down the list, your momentum will naturally increase and you will begin to wonder why you thought the task seemed so big in the first place. The truth is that you will be more focussed upon what you have decided is really important. Once you get going, you will be working very efficiently indeed so you have every chance of finishing your list in half the time you had originally imagined it might take.

Using To Do Lists has been a mainstay of good time management since the idea was originally proposed by Ivy Lee and there are many tools you can use for the purpose. I have a little gadget on my Windows Desktop, but I also found this site that enables you to manage multiple projects simultaneously. The advantage of an online list is, of course, that you can get access to it wherever you can get connected to the internet. There is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned pen and paper either.

So, are you in need of a bit of a productivity boost this week? Then take a little time away from the pressure. Make yourself a nice cup of coffee, sit down somewhere quiet and begin to make your list. The time you spend making your list will be more than repaid, so don’t worry about taking it. Get your list prioritised based on importance and then go to it. And remember Brian’s little tip the next time you are feeling listless.

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