I have an LLC, which adds a bunch of administrative tasks on top of my already busy schedule at the start of each quarter. Sometimes, the workload in this period is overwhelming and I am tempted to procrastinate. Today, I want to share how I deal with those feelings of overwhelm and temptations to procrastinate.
The first step to managing a huge to-do list is to divide it into the Eisenhower matrix. In the top left, we have the important and urgent tasks. In the top right, important but not urgent tasks. In the bottom left, urgent but not important. In the bottom right, neither urgent nor important.
Start with the Important and Urgent
Obviously, the administrative tasks are important and urgent at this moment. They receive the highest priority. Since, I publish a blog post every day, that also goes to top left. There are also other tasks and some of them are important, but administrative tasks and writing a blog post have priority over the rest.
I write down every task that I have to do in Evernote. That way, I’m sure that I won’t forget them. However, my focus will be on my important and urgent list until that list is completed. I know that I’ll get back to the rest of the tasks and therefore, I don’t need to worry about them.
Whenever, I feel like doing a task outside of my important and urgent list, I let that urge go. In these busy times, letting go is an important skill I need to exercise.
Avoid the Urges to Procrastinate and Multitasking
Another pitfall during busy times is to start as many tasks as you can. We feel scared when we see all the tasks in our to-do list. In order to deal with that feeling, we start as many tasks as we can. Needless to say, neither starting multiple tasks at a time, nor multitasking improves our productivity. On the contrary, they hurt our productivity.
It doesn’t matter how many tasks you start, neither how many tasks you carry out in parallel. What counts is how many tasks you finish.
Dealing with a huge to-do list is simple. You simply select the most important and urgent task in your to-do list and work on it until it is complete. The best way to finish a task is to work on it exclusively until it is complete.
It is simple, but not easy, because you’ll feel worried about the rest of the tasks. As a result, you might be tempted to jump from task to task without finishing any of them.
Five Tips to Deal with Long To-Do Lists
Whenever you feel those worries and temptations, let them go. First, write all of your tasks down. That gives you the assurance that you’ll return to them later. Second, remind yourself that the best way to complete your to-do list is to focus on a single task at a time.
Assign a duration to your task at hand. Aim to complete the task you are working on within the assigned duration. That way, you’ll know that you’ll have sufficient time for the rest of your to-do list. Moreover, having a deadline for your task will motivate you with a micro-challenge, just like the weekly goals motivate you.
Promise yourself some downtime. If you have a to-do list that looks endless to you, it’s hard to get motivated to start it. As a result, you might end up procrastinating. In order to overcome that feeling, promise yourself some downtime, either in the evening or in the weekend.
Build momentum by completing a task, no matter how small. This might sound contradictory to starting with the most important and urgent task, but it’s a small trick that helps you break the pattern of procrastination. Once you complete a task, you feel motivated to complete even more. The more you accomplish, the more motivated you get to accomplish more.
Sometimes, we are overwhelmed by our long to-do lists. In order to deal with that feeling, we either procrastinate or jump from task to task without completing any of them. There are a few things you can do to overcome the feelings of overwhelm and procrastination.
- Write down all the tasks that need to be completed.
- Start with the most important and urgent task at hand.
- Focus on a single task at a time.
- Assign a duration to the task and challenge yourself to complete it within that duration.
- Promise yourself some downtime.
- If you feel like procrastinating, break that feeling by completing a small task.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.