Day of Catch Up – 5 Ways to Help Tackle an Overwhelming To-Do List

After an extremely long weekend (5 shows, an opening night, visit from the fella’s mom, etc) I’ve found myself incredibly behind and overwhelmed with my list of to-do.  So much so that I couldn’t even wrap my brain around an actual physical list.

So what do I do in these situations to help calm the brain and get to work?

1. Write down the damn list!  I know, obvious right?  But have you actually written your list today?  For me, writing the to-do list is often part of my to-do list.  It appears daunting at first and maybe even 2 pages long, but  an actual pen and paper list is the most helpful part of getting my day going.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as physically scratching out an item.  Then, even if I haven’t come close to finishing by the end of the day, I can look at all of those wonderful crossed out words and feel like I got something done.

2. Talk to someone else, even if for 5 minutes.  Whether you lay out all your problems to this person or just talk about what’s for lunch, I find talking to someone else about anything helps me refocus when the conversation is over.  Almost like a reboot.

3. Pick the simplest task and just do it. I don’t know about you but my daily list is always a hodgepodge. From the simple tasks like “upload photos” to the not so simple like “write your artists statement” (gross).  When I knock out all the little things, it makes me feel much more accomplished, and therefore more productive.

4. Go do something else, duh. I find it really difficult to pry myself away from a heavy list, but staring at it isn’t going to make it go away or make any more sense of it all. We need to remind ourselves that a little R&R is the only fix for a crowded mind.  For me this is pouring a new cup of coffee, a few clues on that crossword puzzle I’ve been working on or play a round of Guitar Hero (my current video game weakness…curses!).

and of course…

5.Clean your desk/workspace.  Put all those bills somewhere else
(you definitely don’t need to think about those right now…unless
they’re on your list of course), put your pens back in your pen holder,
clean up those coffee rings. I hate to clean just as much as the next person, but a clear space always helps me reorganize
my brain a little.

Bonus tip, ’cause bonuses are awesome:

6. Get dressed! I know, this sounds crazy but when it’s a day
where I’m working from home on my photography, blogging… whatever, I
sometimes find myself still in PJs at 3pm.  That’s all fine and good for
a lot of people, but I feel more like I’m a functioning human being if I
take that shower and put on some shoes. 

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  1. Reply
    Dumblond February 22, 2010

    I find caffeine helps. It’s amazing how much I get done when I’m in the midst of a coffee induced mania…

  2. Reply
    Jason Sheldon February 22, 2010

    Last login: Mon Feb 22 00:20:59 on ttys000
    basil:~ jasonsheldon$ vi balh
    Good tips. Here are my two best productivity tips.
    1. Before you go to bed, create a list of three things that you want to accomplish the next day. I’m anti-long list.
    2. Try to stop a project during an easy part. So that when you come back to it, you are starting at an easy spot and you can get your flow back. This way you look forward to starting again instead of dreading to come back to solve the hard problem. I learned this from Hemingway.
    “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
    -Ernest Hemingway

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