Tip 1: Don’t let it drive you crazy. It’s just a to-do list. Stuff to complete. Completing the to-do list isn’t a measure of success. In fact, sometimes allowing yourself grace to do your best is more awesome than racing through a never ending to-do list and driving yourself batty with work. Life is too short to allow overwhelm from a list of things to do. You know why? Because for the rest of your life you’ll have a to-do list. Think of it as a guide. Not a ruler.
Tip 2: Write a list. I know, I know, silly, right? But, listen. I’m notorious for having the to-do list in my head. And when it’s in my head and not down on paper it can become even more overwhelming. It’s kind of like with my kids – when they imagine how scary something can be – like the hypothetical monster in the closet (where does that come from) – it’s way worse than actually getting up, opening the door, and realizing it’s just a pile of clothes. Because, yes, sometimes my kids go through their clothes, pull them down, and pile them up (just keeping it real). So write it down. Plan your attack.
Tip 3: Step back. If the to-do list is threatening your mood and you’re overwhelmed and not knowing where to start so you find yourself doing nothing but browsing pinterest or staring mindlessly out the window trying to avoid the reality of tasks then this is the time to step back. For me it’s going to Starbucks, calling a friend, taking a shower, letting the kids watch a show on Netflix while I write the list, and so on. Give yourself just a bit of space to reset your mood. Mindset matters. And maybe it’s just packing up the wild kids, going out with your bff, and giving yourself a moment to reset.
Tip 4: Prioritize the to-do list. I first started doing this with my Blogging Concentrated business partner, Dan R. Morris. We were working on lists and had this gigantic to-do list and we split it into money making to-do and other to-do. Having a focus and trajectory for each item really helped us know where to spend time. So I do that in my house. You can too. Part of it might be “getting the house in order so I can breathe” to-do items or items that you need to do with your kids and so on. Giving things a rank will truly help.
Tip 5: Don’t put laundry on the list. Or if you do don’t ever think you’ll cross it off and complete it. I know, I know, I’ve written that before, but it really needs to be reiterated. Laundry is like breathing. It never ever ends. As long as there are people in your home and you walking around there will be laundry. Certain items just need to be part of the rhythm of life. Laundry, cooking, etc…
Tip 6: Get your kids involved. Sometimes. And sometimes just get them busy. How’s that for a tip? Here’s the truth: sometimes it can help to have your kids help you while you work on that list. Have them run the toys to the rooms where they need to go. Let them wash walls. Help fold clothes, etc… But, in the same breath, know that there are other times where you simply need to get them busy with a task and work hard. That is okay. Not every moment can be a teaching moment of household and to-do list management. Sometimes you just need the moments to get your head back on straight and some of the to-do list done.
Tip 7: Identify overwhelming triggers. In the video that I’ve attached I talked about how my kitchen island is a trigger for the permission for a mess to happen in my home. Because I know that when the island is messy that it leads to other messes I make a point of working to keep it clean. At all times. It’s about me having that breath in my day – space to look at and think that I’m on top of things. So work to identify trigger areas that could be adding to the overwhelm. Put those at the top of the to-do list.
Tip 8: Focus on the next thing. Or like I always like to say do one thing and do it well. This one is so critical for me the queen of multi-tasking. I am busy. Plain and simple I am crazy busy (had to add that adjective). Sometimes instead of focusing on one task I’ll split my attention into doing a dozen. Which is normal as a mom. But, on the days when the to-do list is crazy I also focus on one item on my to-do list while expecting interruptions (watch this video on why that is important). So maybe it’s getting the kitchen clean and in the midst of doing that I tie shoes, make lunch, answer the phone, respond to an email, but as far as the concrete to-do list my focus is on the kitchen. And then I move to the next thing. Trust me. This helps.
Tip 9: Keep perspective. See the big picture. The other day I had to go to the grocery store to pick up plastic lunch baggies and juice boxes (sigh, forgot about Music Camp for my boys). I needed to hurry. As we were there my almost 7 year old, Elijah, saw one of those M&M statues. He wanted his picture taken with it. I was in a hurry and kept going. He wanted a picture. I then realized that me taking 1-2 minutes taking his picture with it was worth WAY more than me racing 1-2 minutes in the store. Keep perspective. Big picture.
Tip 10: Cross out those completed things. Oh yeah. Cross them out. X them. Highlight them. Call a friend and tell them. But celebrate what you DO complete. It’s way too easy to go to bed at night thinking that you didn’t accomplish anything. Don’t let a to-do list define you in that way. See everything that you did complete. Maybe it’s one thing. Maybe you got the dishes away. But you did it. So record what you finish – it helps with the perspective – and helps motivate.
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The to do list never gets done. It took me a long time to realize that it was a guide not a must. Brought my stress level down immensely!
Also, NEVER write the to do list in red ink – IMMEDIATE increase in stress level there. Thanks for the great blog! Love reading.
Ha! Yes! No list in red ink. Ever. Ever. Ever.
That might be the best advice I’ve read all week. Make that this month.
Thanks for mentioning me. 🙂 Great post.
Haha… you’re welcome, Dan. I figure every once in a while I should mention you. Thanks for all you do as well.
Love this! If ever I needed to read this then it’s now at 33 weeks pregnant with a 7 year old and a 3 year old, gestational diabetes and 3 hospital appointments a week, whilst trying to fit in housework, laundry, cooking, school runs and time to sit and breath. Thank you!