At some point, we all get to experience what it’s like to juggle multiple tasks and resolve conflicting priorities. When you’re young, you don’t have many concerns. As you grow up and become independent, you take on more responsibilities. You have to create and adhere to your schedule and figure out how to manage your time. And a lot of people can struggle to do just that.
Without devoting proper attention to good habits and best practices in our personal and professional lives, we can end up frequently having too much on our plates. A never-ending to-do list can be overwhelming. It presents a source of chronic stress we all can do without. Here is a path to get you out of this perpetual struggle:
Address what’s on your plate
When you start to take time and task management seriously and learn how to prioritize, you’ll inevitably encounter the Eisenhower matrix in some form. This productivity tool can significantly simplify your efforts to accomplish what’s on your to-do list.
This timeless aid to decision-making will help you sort things into different categories depending on their urgency and importance. But it doesn’t address some of the significant obstacles which many people face. Certain tasks can be large in scope, requiring significant effort or a lot of free time to accomplish. Postponing low-priority tasks can be a negative for someone who doesn’t keep their lives well-organized in the first place. They could end up forgetting that task entirely.
If you want to make progress on your to-do list immediately, you’ll also need an effective system for actually getting things done. And the increasingly popular productivity method of GTD was named for exactly that. By following the GTD steps, you can become more organized. You’ll be able to break down large projects into smaller steps, making it easier to progress without needing an entire day or two. Also, you can keep track of everything and continuously review your process for improvement.
Recognize and tackle personal issues
Learning how to prioritize with the Eisenhower matrix and applying the GTD system will let you make headway in terms of your current to-do list. However, it doesn’t answer the question: how did it come to this in the first place?
Some people have an innate tendency to procrastinate. If this is a problem for you, then the buildup of unfinished tasks is just a byproduct or secondary issue stemming from this more profound concern. Without addressing the root cause, there will periodically be times when assignments pile up, even though you know how to prioritize and accomplish them.
Procrastination can stem from different psychological roots. Disorganization is only one possibility. Two more common issues are perfectionism and fear. If you’re a perfectionist, you may be setting unrealistic goals. If you fear that your capabilities are insufficient, you won’t even make an attempt.
Overall, these issues lead to negative thinking and a tendency to delay or give up on something once difficulties arise. Yet as adults, we’ll ultimately have to take ownership of many things. Put them off, and they come back eventually. Give up, and you’ll have to deal with even more significant problems later.
Learn how to develop a growth mindset. Embrace effort, mistakes, and the possibility of failure as things that lead to growth. This will lead to a breakthrough in battling the underlying psychological issues and put a stop to recurring task overload.
Say no to complexity
In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays a character who goes overboard in terms of positivity by saying yes to everything. This leads to a crisis as his actions lead to outcomes he couldn’t possibly foresee.
Likewise, our lives are full of decision points that could lead to increasing complexity. When you own a house, you have to tend to issues such as sewer line repair or HVAC maintenance. These things are easy to foresee. But other commitments are less predictable.
If you agree to oversee a big project at work, you might end up relying considerably on other people to get things done. How reliable are your colleagues? The project could end up dragging on longer than expected. You might have to do more than you expected.
Learn to estimate projects, commitments, and other undertakings in terms of their complexity. Practice turning down things when you can’t gauge how easy they are to manage. By doing so, you can avoid unexpected outcomes and the subsequent congestion of your to-do list.