It’s no surprise that our attention spans are shrinking and our to-do lists are spiraling hideously out of control while we procrastinate, panic, and eventually curl up into a ball watching Netflix. This is the world we live in!
We all want to be more productive—the kind of people who write (and actually work through) detailed to-do lists, skipping from project to project until we’ve conquered the mountain of our goals.
1. Write it down
The most important first step is to get that giant, unmanageable list out of your brain. Make a physical to-do list. Even if you already have one. Divide it into large projects and small projects so you don’t get freaked out every time you look at it thinking, AAAAH, I HAVEN’T DONE THAT GIANT SCARY THING. Keep the giant scary things separate from the “I can do this in an hour” things. That way you can start crossing things off immediately and build enough momentum to tackle the hard stuff once you’ve settled into work.
2. Hunker down and do it
The second step is to actually show up and do the work. That means clearing your headspace and being present and mindful of your task. Think about the parameters of each one before you start in on it. That way you’ll choose tasks that match your current state of mind at any given moment, and increase your potential for success. Sick or sad or really distracted? That’s probably not a great day to start your biggest project. Save that project for a day when you’re feeling confident and clear-headed.
3. Prepare for distractions
The final step is being able to handle the curve balls that will, inevitably, come your way. Build time and space into your work-time structure to handle the emergencies and extra assignments as they hit you. Budgeting for this will help you not to feel that you have lost anything when you blitz through these unexpected tasks. You can go back to your existing list guilt-free.
This doesn’t mean you’ll never again get stressed out by the piles and piles of tasks you have to do, but these guidelines should give you a strategy at how to conquer those piles without the panic. The more you practice them, the less to-do list stress you’ll have.