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Overwhelm Series #5: Set up your to-do list to get more done instead of stress you out

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In case you haven’t been following this series of posts on Managing Overwhelm, this blog directly follows up from the previous step in my series of posts on Managing Overwhelm. So, if you haven’t checked that out, do go back and learn how to stop using your brain as an office before reading on…

Today I’m going to hold your hand through making friends with the (possibly slightly frightening) to-do list you made in the previous step. It’s about to get a lot less scary! As a highly-sensitive person who only got an autism diagnosis in their 40s, I’d say this is one of my top Neurodiversity resources. Let’s dive in…

How did the great to-do dump out go? Did you get everything down? More importantly, how did you feel about it?

It's quite a thing to be able to sit back and look at the enormous pile of things you’ve been expecting yourself to tackle.

No wonder it's been feeling a tad challenging.

Most people take their list and jump straight into action, only to feel quickly overwhelmed (again). This is often followed by the horrible feeling that they should probably be doing something else on the list instead.

Your to-do list is NOT an action plan.

It's a storage system, designed to take the weight off your own mind. Think of it like a library of tasks:

  • It’s well-organised. You can find anything - and file it - quickly and easily.

  • You only have things in there that you really want and need

  • And you can only take six out at any one time!!

Today you’re going to sort through your to-do list, get rid of things you don’t want or need, and file the rest.

Later on I’m going to show you how to take things from your to-do list and get them done.

You’re going to need another couple of sheets of paper for this.

1 - DELETE: cross off anything that is just not important enough, has expired or you want to get rid of.

2 - DELEGATE: pull out everything that you can pass on to someone else. Delegate these.

3 - DIARISE: list all the tasks that are repeated and regular: you want to build these into your weekly routine. Look at automating as much of it as possible.

4 - DO: sort the remaining pile of jobs into a series of smaller lists. You will tweak the categories as you go, but roughly you want:

  • Deep focus activities: complex work that needs my full willpower and attention

  • Decisions I need to make

  • Backlogged admin

  • Forward-focussed Admin/Finance/Emails/Phone Calls.

Organise these into groups so you can do similar tasks together.

Now your task list should not only be a bit smaller, it should also be making a lot more sense to you.

Next, I’m going to tell you how to approach your tasks and actually start getting things done.

Stay with me on this - it’s soooooo worth it!


If you’re struggling or unclear how to make this work for you, Email me. I’m an unashamed life-hack nerd and I LOVE fine-tuning.

And if you’re struggling to do this alone, you really are not failing. If you’d like a clear plan of action that works for your style, situation and circumstances, I can help with that. Your Unlocking Move includes 90 minutes of my time and uncovers the key next steps that will catapult you closer to your dreams with much less effort.

This is part 5 of my Managing Overwhelm Series and the second in a 3-step process. Stay tuned for the next blog, where we actually engage with these lists and learn the most productive ways to move forward.

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