It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your to-do list. If it’s anything like mine, what you actually get when you write it all down is a never-ending list of errands to run, work to be done, housework to do and friends expecting you to put in an appearance sooner or later. Home improvement projects. Personal projects. Etcetera. Etcetera.
When the list gets long enough, just the idea of trying to get from beginning to end is enough to make you squirm. Or decide to take the day off and hitchhike to Hawaii. Whatever. The point is, eventually you’ll end up overwhelmed. That’s where the trouble begins.
Prioritizing Your To-Do List
The first thing you want to do is prioritize your to-do list. If you have more to do than time to do it, ask yourself what really needs to be done. Do you have to go to dinner at your aunt’s tonight, or can you reschedule for a more convenient time? Take anything off your list that doesn’t absolutely have to be there. You can come back to it when your head’s a little less likely to explode.
Accept that you probably won’t get through everything today (unless you can) and that you’ll be carrying some items over to tomorrow (unless you won’t). Put the things that have to be done today on top. Include pieces of long-term projects here; shunting those off until tomorrow is just going to put you farther behind.
Now, put the most important thing on that list on top. Note that what’s most important isn’t necessarily what’s most urgent. Maybe you have to have a certain report in by the end of the day, but if you don’t set up a meeting with your team this morning you might not get a chance to later. Do what’s most important first, even if it’s not necessarily what’s most urgent.
Once that “most important thing” is done, move on to the next most important thing. And the next. And the next. By starting with your heaviest job when you’re at your best (preferably early in the morning) you’ll be able to get more done, more efficiently, and have a better chance of making it to the end of your daily list by the end of the day.
Starting Big Cuts Back on Procrastination
Saving your light work for the end of the day, when you’re tired and aren’t performing your best, doesn’t just guarantee that more important projects will get your full, undivided attention. It also guarantees that a two hour project won’t turn into a four hour one. Trying to do something labor-intensive when you’re tired leads to daydreaming, dawdling, procrastinating (remember that one more cup of coffee we were going to give up on?) and dragging out simple tasks far longer than they need to be dragged out for.
Pull it up. Get it done. Go home at the end of the day.
Do you do your most important tasks first, or do you save your “heavy” load for the end of the day?