productivity stress anxiety coaching

9 strategies to manage an overwhelming to-do list

anxiety coaching productivity stress management Jul 11, 2023

Managing a to-do list is important for productivity and efficiency in our lives. Being strategic about how our lists are managed can be the difference between checking boxes off your list quickly and never checking them off at all. 

  1. Practice self-compassion and self-awareness

The Process Communication Model (PCM), often used to describe depth of our personality, specifies that perfectionism is an indicator of distress. Moreover, perfectionism is used as a way to feel safe and avoid confronting unwelcomed feelings, situations, or tasks. Oftentimes we can be the biggest obstacles in our own productivity such that it can hinder us from even getting started. Make a conscious choice to be self-aware of how you speak to yourself. Simply put, perfectionism can be the enemy of success. 

  1. Learn to prioritise

While learning to prioritise is arguably the most important strategy on this list, it can also be a challenging skill to develop. Former U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Later, Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, coined the  “Eisenhower Principle”, a prioritisation strategy used to organise work by urgency and importance. With this tool, you can split your tasks into four separate sections:

  • To be completed urgently
  • To be scheduled (and completed at a later date)
  • To be delegated
  • To delete

This is one of the many prioritisation tools out there that can help you reach your efficiency goals. By clearly mapping out your list, you can easily gauge what is most urgent and what can wait. 

  1. Learn to say no, or not right now 

In reference to strategy #2, if something on your to-do list falls into the “to be delegated” or “to delete” bucket, this will likely require you to be communicative with others about your workload. Compassionate communication is the best way to share with your team what you are and aren’t able to manage. If certain projects fall out of your “important” and “urgent” buckets, sharing with your team creates an open line of communication for everyone to reassess goals and objectives. Transparency plays a key role in being an advocate for yourself as you want to be honest about where your focus is while also being realistic with expectations of others. Compassionate Communication is a skill which teaches us to speak our truth is a safe way by taking out the emotional charge of a message. How someone choose to interpret it is up to them, but what we can do is take out the major triggering things to avoid a defensive reaction when we share something which is difficult to communicate. 

  1. Log every time you freeze in front of your list

If you’re often paralyzed by the sight of your to-do list, this is a sign of overwhelm and anxiety. Try jotting down dates, times, and locations of when you find yourself freezing. This could help you to uncover certain triggers. Perhaps Monday mornings are difficult for you, as you anticipate the many meetings you have to attend that day. By remaining aware, you can find compassion for yourself and create workaround strategies.

  1. Break tasks into smaller chunks

Large tasks can feel daunting and impossible to begin. However, breaking projects into bite-sized pieces can help create a clearer roadmap for what needs to be done to accomplish a goal or project. It can also help to prioritise the smaller tasks by importance and urgency (as stated in strategy #2) and note due dates to hold yourself accountable. 

Interested in learning more tools to enhance your productivity?

Finish reading this article on our Medium Blog here. 

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