Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the amount of tasks you have to complete?
Does your to-do list anxiety make you feel frazzled and frustrated?
When you are prone to anxiety, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with tasks, chores, events, people to contact, and other external influences in your life. The reason this happens is that you are often predicting and planning into the future.
A hallmark of anxiety is the constant worrying and obsessing over things that could happen or trying to plan for each possible scenario before it happens.
The problem with this is that it’s exhausting! Constantly planning and predicting the future is often fruitless and cumbersome. It actually magnifies your stress and anxiety levels because in addition to the actual task or event, now you are overthinking things on top of it.
So what can you do to stop this from happening? And how can you cope with the stress and overwhelm of your to-do list anxiety, upcoming events, and external stressors?
How To Stop The Overwhelm Of An Overflowing To-Do List
1. Write Things Down
Tasks swirling around in your head magnify overthinking- especially abstract thought, which just puts you in your head more. Get things out concretely in writing (or typing) so that you know they are there when you are ready to address them.
And, instead of having your reminders written down in a million different places (post-it notes everywhere, random notes on pieces of paper, phone reminders and notes…) put them all in one centralized location. This further decreases your anxiety because you are less likely to forget things and feel like you are pulled all over the place.
Make an actionable to-do list of things you want to or have to get done, and plan out the tasks using a realistic timeline. This leads me to the next tip…
2. Don’t Overplan
Things often take much longer than you expect, which results in more stress and anxiety. When was the last time you planned out tasks you wanted to get done in a certain day or amount of time and didn’t get to all of them?
I am so incredibly guilty of this. I always underestimate how long something will take, and you think I would have learned by now! I am slowly getting there and will often double the amount of time I think a task will actually take so that I can be realistic with my planning.
Limit yourself to 1-3 major tasks per day and double the amount of time you think a task will actually take when planning ahead.
3. Let Go Of The “Should’s”
You are exactly where you “should” be. In fact, delete the word “should” from your vocabulary entirely. That word only creates more stress, pressure, and unrealistic expectations. Stop comparing yourself to others or where you wish you were in life.
You are here now and that is amazing. Seriously… I know it sounds cliché and cheesy, but the more you live in a fantasy world of what you wish your life looked like and where you are in comparison to others, the more suffering you will experience if the reality doesn’t match up with your fantasy.
Accept and love your life. You are moving at your own pace and that is beautiful.
4. Be In The Present
You’ve probably heard this a million times before, right? Well the thing is, it can’t be said enough. And the reason is because it is so easy to forget… especially when you are prone to anxious thinking. Your brain is often 12 steps ahead and thinking about the future and the “what if’s”, which are both very far from right now.
If you find yourself stressing about the amount of tasks you have to get done, or worrying that you will never get to it all, bring your mind back to the present. Remind yourself that you are here right now and you are not superhuman. It may be unrealistic that you get all of these things done right now (see tip #2)!
Practice being in the present by being mindfully aware. A quick way to practice present moment awareness is to tune into your senses:
5. Focus On One Thing At A Time
I hate to break it to you, but multitasking is a myth. The only thing multitasking does is make you less efficient at every task you are doing.
Stop thinking about the next thing you have to do while running errands, checking your email while you are in a meeting, or mentally rehashing your to-do list while relaxing with a good book. Make a conscious effort to focus on one thing at a time. I know it’s hard, but I promise it helps!
A great way to practice focusing on one thing at a time is to minimize distractions.
This can include putting your phone on silent when you are working on an important task, telling others to not bother you, and closing additional browser windows or tabs if you are working on a computer.
You Can Tackle Your To-Do List Anxiety
Sometimes life can be hard, I totally feel you. And that’s okay! By implementing a few of the quick tips you just read, I know you will be well on your way to less stress and more calm.
Let me know in the comments if you have any tips for how to decrease your task overwhelm.