You’ve got 50+ things on your to-do list. You’re feeling totally overwhelmed and don’t know where to start or how on earth you’re going to get everything done.

You’re too busy to write a list. It’ll take too much time, you’d rather just get on with it. You could spend all your day planning instead of ‘doing’.

However, it’s been proven that when you spend time getting to grips with your to-do list and plan your day, you’ll save yourself hours of wasted time, stress and have a much more productive day.

Here’s how to make sense of your list, take control and feel less overwhelmed.

Write everything down

Or at least gather everything together in one place, especially if your tasks are scattered across multiple lists, written down on different bits of paper and post-its. Admit you’re never going to get all 50+ things completed today!

Break larger projects down into manageable steps and actionable tasks. What the first, smallest actionable step you need to take?

This next step takes a bit of time the first time. But the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit and the quicker and easier it becomes.

Prioritise and organise

Go through each task:

  • What is the priority for this task – this will relate to the date needed – overdue, urgent, important .A simple 1, 2, 3; A, B, C; red, orange yellow (if you want to use colours), is enough to start prioritising your tasks.
  • When is it needed by? Today, tomorrow, this week, this month …? Don’t clutter up your list with tasks that don’t need to be completed until a later date. Add them to a future list or put them on your calendar so they pop up when needed.
  • Group similar tasks together – whether by type of task – phone calls, emails or by project or client. It’s quicker and more efficient to do similar tasks – make a few phone calls at the same time. Include information you need to complete the task – particularly phone numbers, links etc. One less thing you need to think about for the task.
  • Separate tasks into categories – work, personal, chores. If it’s helpful use ‘project’ or ‘client’ categories so you get a better perspective on how your tasks relate to your workflow.
  • Set aside time in your day to actually complete the task – especially the high priority ones.

Keep your daily to-do list short

Make it no more than the number of tasks you can realistically achieve in a day. This could be as few as 3, ideally no more than 10. If you have too many tasks or you find you don’t complete them each day, reduce the number.

Regular reviews

Review your new, shorter list throughout the day. If it’s working it will guide you’re work. If it’s not, you may need to rethink how you’re working or what you’re working on.

By the end of each day you will have checked off a number of tasks. Plan what you need to complete the following day.

Add new tasks as they come along and apply the same principles of prioritising, organising and scheduling in time for each task.

Slash and burn

Purge your list regularly. Some of the low priority tasks will naturally fall off the list or are no longer relevant, so you can cross them off.

Get in touch if you still need to make sense of your own to-do list.