Do you ever have times during which everything seems to be going at the right speed, everything is happening when it should, and you are crossing things off your to-do list like a rock star? Then all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, you have a thousand tasks that must be completed in the next 24 hours. Whether this is due to bad planning, a sudden deadline at work or home, or any of the other curveballs that life can throw, one thing is for sure, it can be very stressful when you are facing several deadlines all at once.
While we can’t change what we should have done and we can’t go back in time to manage our time better (that is a topic for another day), we can change how we look at a big to-do list. Instead of staring at it all and wondering how in the world it will all get done, start moving. I don’t mean you have to dive right into the most significant project, I know that can be too overwhelming to even think about at times. I suggest that you start organizing. Plan your way out.
Some of the steps that I take when overwhelmed with tasks are:
1. Write down how long you estimate each task will take. This will help you to really get an idea of how long you will be working on each item.
2. Write down the absolute deadline for each task. This will help with deciding what to do first and what can wait.
3. Place the tasks in order of importance, in case all are not feasible to complete. Sometimes we don't meet deadlines.
4. If possible, let people around you know that you are honestly too busy at the moment. No, you can’t meet for coffee. Yes, you might miss the gym one day. No, you can’t respond to every message on that group text. Yes, you promise to resurface when all done.
5. As much as we think, and our culture pushes, that if we don’t complete all the tasks we are given that we are somehow failing, that isn’t always true. While many things are in our control, many things are also out of our control. Remembering that you are doing the best you can do is what is important to focus on instead of the things you can’t do.
Also, every time a deadline approaches and you feel overwhelmed, make a small note of how you have been spending your time up to that point. Was something critical being ignored? Had you forgotten to write something down? Were you doing something you indeed found more valuable? Take all of these things into consideration to decide what you can/should change that can help you better manage time in the future.