Four Secrets to Conquering To-Do List Overwhelm Forever

Four Secrets to Conquering To-Do List Overwhelm Forever

Here’s the truth: you will never respond to every email, you will never catch up on every interesting FB post or tweet, and you will never read every article that might be relevant or beneficial to your career.  And you will definitely forget a close friend’s birthday, maybe more than one.

Staying up later, working more efficiently, or even spending all 7 days of your week working to get caught up will not change that.

What I’ve found in my business is that success actually breeds a longer to-do list and more opportunities – not less.  So that story that we tell ourselves, the one about how we’ll finally relax and take a break when we reach that new business goal and get “there,”  – it’s fiction.  Waiting to reach the end of our to-do list just keeps us stuck in a vicious cycle of doing more and more and never being done.

Here’s the good news: there are small behavioral changes you can make which lead to large shifts in your workload and your productivity.  When my clients can make these adjustments, I always see a lot more freedom and ease in their lives.

Here are four of my favorite ways to manage the work-grind without letting it grind you down.

1) Stop Multitasking 

Jo Ilfeld|Seriously! I know you’re laughing right now but multi-tasking is one of the biggest productivity myths and it’s only getting worse in this information age.  It makes us feel super-on-top-of-things to bealerted to new emails, comments on your FB page, DMs on Twitter and RSS feed updates.  Masterfully managing these incoming streams gives you the feeling of expertly juggling multiple balls.  Here’s the hitch though – multi-tasking makes it take 25% longer to get each single task done! (And that’s assuming you remember to go back to the uncompleted tasks.)  It’s time to find a better way to feel productive.

2) Don’t Just Manage Your Work Flow – Work In Flow

Flow is a mental state first noted and named by famed researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Flow is often referred to as “being in the zone” and it’s when time flies and we are immersed in a single task.  When we are in a state of “flow,” we find that we’re more creative, work feels effortless, and we come up with more innovative solutions.  Creating flow, not multi-tasking, is your ticket to cutting through the noise and really leveraging your work hours for maximum impact.

3) Sleep More

It’s easy to think of sleep as time spent away from pursuing our waking goals but that’s a costly fallacy.  The truth is short-term sleep deficits quickly lead to mental impairment that affects our memory, thought

speed, cognitive processing, and attention – deficits that often resemble that of someone legally intoxicated.  Does that seem like an efficient work plan to you?

Additionally, researchers have proven that we process and consolidate information in our sleep so that we can often find better solutions and faster short-cuts after a good night sleep, than if we had pulled an all-nighter focusing on the same problem.  Lots to figure out? Perhaps just hit the hay!

4) Manage Your Commitments – Not Your Time

While efficient time-management is the uber-goal of many entrepreneurs and professionals, it’s leading us down a murky path.  The truth is that you can’t “manage” time, we all just have the same 7 days with 24 hours in them.  What you can manage is your roles & commitments.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and constantly in work-mode, it’s time to take a hard look at your task list and decide which commitments need to be re-negotiated, which need to be put on hold, and which to-do items are no longer feasible or advantageous and should be deleted entirely.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but regulating your commitments and promises can be the savvy way to feeling back in-control of your days.

Each of these four keys sounds deceptively simple, but dismiss them as “obvious” and ignore them at your own peril!  These four keys are stepping stones within the larger blueprint of finding your optimal work style and leveraging small changes for big gains.

I’m challenging you to re-read the four steps above and pick one to focus on for the next few weeks.  Then sit back and take note of the new insights and productivity improvements you’re rewarded with.

Leave a comment below letting me know which one you plan to start tackling first.

Hit reply to this email right now and let me know which one you plan to start tackling first.

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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