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Do you feel extremely overwhelmed from looking at your to-do list? Do these tasks feel infinite and impossibly daunting? Do you dread opening your laptop with the idea of facing your unorganized, messy assignments? We’ve all been there.
More often than not, going through your tasks may feel like wading through waist-high sand. This may sound trivial, but work stress often comes from task disorganization, making them look more difficult than they actually are. Worse, it can deter your motivation, productivity and sense of accomplishment. From swamped emails to meeting deadlines, the anxiety of not knowing where to start or how to finish can burn you out.
Perhaps it’s about time to regroup and rethink the ways to manage your overwhelming to-do list. Here’s how:
1. Delete low-priority tasks
The truth is you can’t do it all. The first step to managing your to-do list is to sort your tasks according to priority. Keep an eye on your low-priority tasks. Quickly go over them and assess their importance. If deemed inconsequential, delete them. The reality is some tasks are better deleted than completed. Just because they’re on your to-do list doesn’t mean you have to do them.
Low-priority tasks are jesters in a deck of cards. Oftentimes, they’re there for no reason, and yet they’re the biggest obstacles that prevent you from completing your high-priority workload. For one, low-priority tasks don’t age well. They may have displayed importance the moment you captured them, but some tasks simply resolve on their own and no longer require further attention, making them obsolete. In fact, they are often tagged as “no priority.” Not only do they make your list a lot longer than it is, but it takes you in a completely different direction, hindering your productivity.
Use your sense of discernment in determining their relevance. For each task, ask yourself, “Is this necessary?” If the answer is “no,” delete them, move on, and don’t waste your time.
2. Batch similar tasks together
It’s important to remind yourself that you’re human, not AI. Unlike a computer, you can’t effectively run multiple processes at a time. The brain takes time to process whenever you switch contexts, halting you from finding your flow.
The key to productivity is by getting into the groove. Once you’ve found your rhythm, it will be much easier for you to go with your workflow effectively and efficiently. Being in the zone is key to accomplishing tasks quickly without compromising their quality. The trick to this is grouping similar tasks together.
Task batching is an effective productivity strategy that helps you avoid context switching. By categorizing your work, you’ll be able to find a perfect approach that applies to a variety of assignments, making it feel like it’s just one fluid execution rather than mentally jumping back and forth from one type to another. Not only will this make your to-do list a lot more organized and easy on the eyes, but it will also improve your speed and efficiency.
3. Make a list of completed items
On top of your to-do list, it’s equally important to include your completed items. This will not only help you track your progress, but it will also help boost your confidence by knowing how productive you have been. If it’s taking a long while to fill your completed items, that’s your cue to reconsider how to improve your speed. Perhaps you’re taking too long on a task that’s not necessarily urgent? Perhaps you’re spending too much time in your inbox? Perhaps you’re prioritizing obsolete tasks? It’s your opportunity to reassess and adjust to hit your daily quota.
4. Don’t overcheck your inbox
Did you know that most professionals spend more than two hours of their time at work checking their emails without even realizing it? From waiting for responses and digging through old attached files, to simply mindlessly scrolling, over-checking your email is one of the leading productivity deterrents in a workplace. Ideally, one shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes in their inbox. Remember that it’s a communication tool, not your task manager. Not only does it interrupt your flow, but it interferes with your work execution. My friend Yoel Israel, CEO of WadiDigital, once told me during a collaborative work session that I spend too much time in my inbox. I agreed with him and fixed it.
Keep in mind that emails can wait. They don’t bear significant weight in the urgency of your tasks. Consider alloting a good amount of 25 to 30 minutes a day for checking your inbox — 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 in the afternoon. Or you can evenly divide it into seven minutes every 2 hours.
The golden rule is to always be on top of your to-do list. From the level of urgency and degree of importance to the type of context, the key is to be organized to achieve clarity on what to do first, what to do next and what not to do. Strategize, launch your tactics, and attack. Control your tasks; don’t let your tasks control you.