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What To Do When Your To-Do List Runs You

What To Do When Your To-Do List Runs You

This article was originally published on Forbes.

Recently I started some new event projects that are engaging, fun and that I’m good at. I was (and still am) pretty jazzed. There was one issue, though. The number of hours in the day didn’t increase for some reason. Shocking. Couple ‘work stuff’ with what I like to call ‘the rest of your life’ and I had some serious time crunch issues.

For a couple of weeks there, I literally felt like my head was spinning. I’d go from meeting to meeting, one after another, and oftentimes would have to intertwine all my projects and clients together, so that keeping details straight felt like wading through thick mud.

[Related: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time]

But I got through it. How? Some of the tricks I used are below, although there are dozens more:

1. Before you dive in, know yourself. What do I mean by this? I mean when your to-do list is busy trying to drown you, know what you need from the other, non-work parts of your life and act accordingly. I need a good yoga or pilates session before the nighttime work session, so I make sure that gets in there. I also am obsessed with the awesome people in my life, so when I can’t see them often, I try to schedule lunch dates.

2. Accomplish one relatively significant task before lunch. This way, after a more relaxing lunch break, you can take on the PM without an all-out panic about all there is left to do for the day. What does significant mean? Whatever makes you feel you’ve accomplished something.

3. Break down large projects. Don’t put something like, “Develop social media strategy for 2015” on your actual list. Don’t. I’ve seen how that ends. And it involves one of three things (or all three at once) 1) Tissues 2) Wine 3) Paralysis- doing nothing. Instead, break the task up into smaller parts. Maybe it’s “Look at engagement reports for 2013 and 2014” so you can eventually draw conclusions about what’s working and what’s not. Make it small, attainable, reasonable and all those other good things we talk about when we talk about goals and to-dos.

4. Separate The List.There are several ways to do this, whether by project or- something that works for me with event work- short, medium and long term time frames. In other words, what is something that needs to be done today? What is something that is longer term that I can make a small step toward completing today?

5. Don’t try to do it all! I’m serious- you will go insane. It’s easy to overestimate how much you can get done in a day, but the reality is that many things take longer than we anticipate. So instead of making a billboard sized to do list that will end up making you feel drained when you don’t get to it all, work on getting one relatively large task accomplished and several smaller tasks. I work with clients on putting together specific plans around this that work for them, and we adjust those plans as necessary.

[Related: A Crucial Time Management Mistake You May Not Know You're Making]

6. Avoid the email black hole like the plague. Wow, we get a lot of email! If only that Williams Sonoma would stop emailing me- I’m way too tempted by his Le Creuset pots and pans!…but seriously, we get a ton of email. It’s a thing. So how do we not make it as much of a thing to get back on the Productivity Express? Try turning the Outlook bubble off so you can’t see incoming messages or shutting down your email altogether and only checking at specific times of day, if you have that much self control.

These are just a few of the things I did to regain sanity and not compromise my values for the rest of my life in the process. I would say that’s the most important piece of this puzzle actually. It’s great to have a system for turning off your inbox pop up bubble, but if you’re running yourself into the ground and not feeding your soul during busy periods (of if you’re just always running on all cylinders) you’re going to burn out, get sick, be cranky and feel unlike yourself.

What other tips can you share with readers on not letting your to do list continually run you? Leave an idea in the comments below!

Jill is a certified professional coach (CPC) and works primarily work with women on connecting their core values to a fulfilling career that makes them excited to get up in the morning.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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