How to take the stress out of to do lists

I don’t know about you but I always resort to writing a list when I start to feel tasks are looming. The trouble is it’s usually when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all that I have to do that I start making the list. So even though list-making helps me clarify what I have to do and in what order of priority, it also often makes me feel something close to panic as I’m confronted with everything that I haven’t yet done.

The antidote to this is simple, but so effective.

Instead of writing a to do list when you start feeling that you need to prioritise your tasks, begin by writing an already done list. Write down all the things you’ve already achieved today or this week. It’s so gratifying and often quite amazing to glance over all the things we have been up to already, and it energizes us for our list of things yet to do.

It also helps us shift our perspective on time, and how long it takes to do things. Often we can discover that our perception of how long it takes to do fairly mundane tasks is magnified by how much we resist doing them, as the anxiety and procrastination demand way more of our energy than actually just getting on with the thing in the first place.

So to keep the stress out of ‘to do’ lists, to ramp up your energy levels for your next bunch of activities, AND to develop an awareness of the relationship between tasks and their duration, write an ‘already done’ list first. You’ll be astounded by how much more progress you will make more quickly.


Filed under Journal Writing, Time Management

2 responses to “How to take the stress out of to do lists

  1. I like the idea, but I get the feeling I would think of a half-completed to do list as kind of cheating. Know what I mean?

  2. HI Michelle – thanks for your comment. What I discovered yesterday was that I’d already done loads of stuff, but could feel some sort of tension, apprehension, about stuff I still had to do. Normally I’d write down all the stuff still to do and have a very full to do list – and a sick feeling of overwhelm. So instead of that I wrote down all the stuff I’d done, felt amazed and energised by it, then wrote my to do list for the next bunch of stuff. I ended up with two complete lists, a great feeling of accomplishment and anticipation for what is yet to come. No cheating! :))

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