Post Updated on September 1, 2020
Is your to-do list eight pages long? Are you stressing yourself out thinking about the tasks you need to get done this week? I’m right there with you.
At this point in the year, we’re all busy and stressed out. We’re also tired of hearing ourselves say that we’re busy and stressed out. Seriously, it’s not all that cool to be busy anymore.
I know we all want to be productive and achieve our goals, but when we have so many things to do that it’s not humanly possible, we end up burning ourselves out.
Luckily there doesn’t always have to be this battle against your to-do list. There are ways to make it less daunting and overwhelming, I promise you.
How To Declutter Your To-Do List
Feel like you need to declutter your to-do list? Here are my go-to strategies for streamlining and reducing your workload:
Step 1: Get it out of your head
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’m going to guess that a lot of it is actually in your head *gasp*. For me, overwhelm creeps in when I’m thinking through everything I have to do from now until I’m 90 years old. That’s why I suggest writing everything down the moment you start to feel overwhelmed.
Getting everything out of your brain gives you clarity to see what’s important. Even if your to-do list is eight pages long, you’ll see that your list isn’t actually as urgent as it once seemed.
How to do it
Grab a piece of paper, set a timer for five minutes, and write down everything that comes to mind. Everything. Dump it all onto the first piece of paper you can find. Your list could go from tiny, individual tasks that need to get done tomorrow until it reaches the realm of ‘projects that might be good ideas but would take 10 years to complete.’ Give yourself five minutes to get everything out of your head.
Free Download: Get the free brain dump worksheet ?
Step 2: Let go of the shoulds
One of the biggest reasons we get overwhelmed is because we think we ‘should’ be doing everything. It’s all too easy to get sucked into thinking you should do exactly what other people are doing (especially if they were successful at it). I find myself saying things like ‘I should start doing yoga daily’ or ‘I should plan out every single meal for the next month.’
These shoulds make your to-do list (or potential to-do list) longer and more overwhelming, they get in the way of the things that are truly meaningful and worthy of your time and energy.
How to do it
Go through the list you made above and ask if there’s anything you think you should be doing, as opposed to what want or need to be doing. Question whether the tasks or projects you have listed will make your life easier in the future. This is tricky for tasks or projects you don’t exactly enjoy doing, but you can still ask yourself whether they will make your life easier in the future. Once you’ve decided which tasks don’t seem important or meaningful right now, cross them off.
Related Post: Planning vs. Flowing: How To Find The Right Balance
Step 3: Prioritize mindfully
Now that you’ve gone through your to-do list and removed any shoulds, it’s time to start prioritizing your tasks. My rule of thumb? If it doesn’t need addressing within three weeks, I put it on a ‘future tasks’ list and forget about it until it’s needed (setting reminders using a productivity app like Asana helps with this).
Prioritizing your tasks lets you see what’s most pressing and what you don’t actually need to worry about until later.
How to do it
Start re-writing your list so the most important things are at the top. By most important, I mean it’s due within the week or it’s a project that needs breaking into chunks. Then, write due dates next to everything. Even if it doesn’t have a due date, give it one.
At this point, you can start scheduling everything into your planner for the week. Scheduling your tasks into your planner is the best advice I can give to reduce to-do list overwhelm because it gives you a realistic sense of the time you have to accomplish tasks. Make sure you’re not cramming everything into one day by spacing tasks throughout the week. I’ve written a post about how I schedule my week here.
Related Post: 3 Ways To Manage Your To-Do List
When it comes to your never-ending to-do list, stick with the three principles:
- Get it out of your head
- Let go of shoulds
- Prioritize mindfully
What can you remove from your to-do list? Leave a comment below with you’re letting go of!