Time Management: What to Do When You Have Too Much to Do

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are a busy person. Between managing your career, spending time with family and friends, working on personal goals and handling other responsibilities, juggling everything can seem like a nearly impossible task at times. But you’re not alone in feeling this way. Anyone who claims to have a perfectly-balanced life is a liar—or a robot.

When you feel like you have too much on your plate, it can be hard to figure out what to do. You know the tasks that lie before you, but the overwhelming weight of these responsibilities can make it hard to identify a course of action.

If you ever feel caught in this type of rut, use the following tips to help find your way again.

 

Take a deep breath.

Before you get started, remember to breathe. This may seem like a silly tip, but taking a moment to be mindful and de-stress will help you take on each task more efficiently. Remember this tip as you go through the day, too. It’s important to recognize when you need a break. Once you’ve given yourself some room, you can return to your work feeling refreshed.

 

Make a list and prioritize.

Sometimes it’s easier to manage responsibilities and visualize a plan when you put it down on paper (or a computer screen). Take a moment to list out all the items you need to address. Then, break the list into larger chunks (e.g. school, job, family, housework). By organizing everything you need to do, you can then assess the urgency of each item to prioritize which tasks you should handle first.

If you’re struggling to find motivation, try completing a quick, easy goal first. This sense of accomplishment can help you move on to more pressing issues.

 

Avoid multitasking.

In a world saturated with laptops, tablets and smart phones, the ability to access every aspect of your digital life is literally at your fingertips. This can make it hard to resist the urge to multitask—especially at work and during study time. But often, what might feel like a “life hack” may be hurting your productivity. In fact, research has shown that multitasking results in “switch costs,” or time lost while switching between functions, meaning an individual who attempts two tasks at once takes longer to complete them than an individual who tackles each task separately.

Try setting times for certain activities, and avoid pop-up tasks as much as possible. For example, set blocks of time each week to study for school, pick one night a week for a family activity and resist the urge to visit time-wasting websites like Facebook when you’re working on a computer. Creating boundaries in this way can help you make the most of your time.

 

Remember that it’s okay to say no.

Obviously, some things on your list are required, and hard deadlines are necessary. But it is okay to say no to certain things, or ask for flexibility when possible. Skipping drinks with friends, or opting out of a volunteering opportunity can be a bummer, but it’s important to prioritize your goals and personal needs, too.

The most important step in this process is to make the choice to take action. When you take one big problem (i.e. your crazy schedule) and break things down into smaller categories, it’s easier to re-direct your focus, create an efficient to-do list and check items off one-by-one. Putting these ideas into practice can be a challenge, but once you’ve found the right mindset, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and be more productive.