There's nothing more daunting than a long list of urgent tasks. When everything is urgent, it's hard to know where to start. So here are four tips for taming your to-do list when everything is or at least seems to be urgent.
Eliminate or postpone those you can. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by competing demands. This is especially true if you are in a role where you have many responsibilities or if you have too many tasks. In this case, focusing on what matters most can be helpful. For example:
- If there's no way that you can get everything done today, then maybe it doesn't matter if they're done at all!
- If you don't have time for this task right now, then maybe it should be dropped and rescheduled for later on down the line.
Once you've identified which items are genuinely urgent versus important and eliminated any less-important tasks from your list of responsibilities, it becomes easier to prioritize. But, of course, the items deemed urgent need to remain front-and-center.
Rank your tasks by priority. If you're feeling overwhelmed and need to prioritize your tasks, try this:
- Rank your tasks by priority. Then, ask yourself which task is most urgent, which is most important—and so on. You might find that the most urgent task isn't the most important for you (for example, if it requires writing that will take a few days but doesn't require much thinking).
- If you don't know the priority of a task, ask someone else what they think it should be. This can help give you perspective and reveal potential blind spots in approaching the situation.
- If multiple priorities are involved in a single task or project, break them down into smaller chunks. Let each one have only one primary objective instead of trying to juggle multiple objectives simultaneously. This makes prioritizing easier for you and others who need to understand what needs to be done first!
Split up large projects for manageability. When faced with a considerable task and you don't know where to begin, it can be tempting to give up. But the truth is that no matter how big or small your project is, there are always ways to make it more manageable.
Let's say you want to write an article about how to manage an urgent workload. You know that writing this article as one large piece of content will take three or four hours at least—and that won't leave much time for anything else!
So instead of trying to tap out a single large article on your own, try breaking down the information into smaller chunks. Start with an outline and write each piece separately. Once all these pieces are written and edited independently from each other, combine them into one coherent piece. This process helps ensure everything gets done on time while also ensuring nothing gets lost.
Take time to plan. Taking time to think and plan will help reduce the stress of a long list of urgent tasks. Let the list sit while you take a break, then come back and look at it with fresh eyes. It's likely that some of those tasks you had marked urgent have been completed or just aren't as pressing as they seemed when you wrote them down. You can move these items off your list by either deleting them or moving them into another category of urgency like "this week" or "next month."
Once you've reevaluated your priorities, break down large tasks into smaller steps and reward yourself for completing each step. Take breaks between stages to stay energized and focused on the task. If something specific is holding up progress on a task (like waiting for another person), set up reminders in advance so that nothing slips through the cracks.
The bottom line is that you plan. Then, you can put your priorities in order and divide up large projects so they seem more manageable. The more urgent tasks will be much easier to deal with when they're not overwhelming!
Do you have any additional tips for handling the stress of everything urgent? Let us know in the comments below.
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