Whether or not you tend to make lists for your work and personal life activities, you probably know about to-do lists. However, what about to-do list overload? If your list has grown like Pinocchio’s nose, you have overload that most likely seems overwhelming.
Having “been there, done that,” I’d like to share some ideas about to-do list overload and what you can do about it. To be honest, this lesson seems to be one I need to relearn at least every few years, so I can’t pretend to be expert in all aspects of it. On the other hand, experience can serve as a great teacher when we let it, so maybe mine will help shed some light for you.
I like to think of myself as a reasonably well-organized person. After all, how can I run my business (resume writing and job search coaching) if I’m disorganized? That should mean my to-do list is manageable, right?
Well, yes and no.
Several weeks ago, I saw that business was entering an “uptick” pattern–nice amount of inquiries and potential projects coming along, including client referrals. So what did I do about that? I started tracking inquiries, my responses, calls being scheduled, and so on. Of course, my intent focused on controlling the flow of committed projects and their delivery deadlines.
For a few weeks, the system worked pretty well. Then the dam broke! Suddenly I had more potential client projects than I had time for.
Over the next month or so, I basically played catch-up. My to-do list stubbornly refused to shrink to a reasonable length.
In my case, it involved rescheduling some less-urgent projects, including some for my business rather than clients. For you, it might mean looking at work projects to see what you could try to delegate to a subordinate or perhaps ask a colleague/peer for help.
What if you have way too many “high priority” items on your list–everything’s an “A”? When your to-do list defies prioritization, you need to get serious! For me, that included referring a couple of prospects to other services. As any small-business owner knows, that’s painful!
On the other hand, taking on a project I can’t do justice to makes no sense to me. First and foremost, I don’t want to disappoint clients who are counting on me to come through for them. Your situation, where you have a boss to report to, could require careful handling and a different tactic. Turning down a work project your boss hands you might not be an option.
I recommend taking a careful look at your current workload and the projects your boss has identified as priorities. You might start by asking if the new project should get a higher priority than the others. Ideally, you can work out a new to-do list that pushes out some project deadlines and makes the overall task manageable. Maybe you’ll find a realistic way to share your workload with someone else–assuming he/she and your boss agree!
Above all, don’t allow a runaway to-do list to damage your physical and mental well-being. Very few jobs justify that kind of sacrifice. Somehow carve out at least a few minutes each day to keep your sanity! If you make that a habit, you’ll raise the quality of your job performance while at the same time ensuring you enjoy the days more.