Our lives are busy these days. Having multiple and often competing priorities appears to be a part of modern life. So how can we combat the associated stress? With a damn good plan.
I had always been a bit skeptical about planning as I’m naturally quite a free-flowing person, and there is something about a plan that seemed a bit rigid to me. But as I’ve matured I have come to realize that there was a reason my mother was constantly writing lists as I grew up. Simply put, they work.
To understand it a little better, planning puts you back in control. It gives you a map that allows you to navigate your way through the demands and reduces the feelings of overwhelm. In short, planning can help you manage all of those priorities effectively so that you don’t have to feel the stress.
Here are the 4 simple steps I take to organize my time and attack my priorities (and in doing so, massively reduce my stress levels).
Step 1: Planning Comes First
When you have multiple priorities or feel like you’re juggling a million balls in the air, often our first response is to launch into action. This is rarely, however, the most effective response.
Even if you feel like you have so much to do that you couldn’t possibly spare the few minutes to write a good to-do list, I urge you to override your instinct. Planning is by far the most productive use of your time. It takes just a couple of minutes and yet provides a huge sense of relief. It also allows you to organize your time in the most effective way (likely saving you time in the long run).
So start with the planning. Whether it’s at the beginning of every day, or once you realize you are feeling overwhelmed, the first step is to take the time to write a to-do list.
Step 2: Mind Dump Your To-Do’s
Rather than trying to formulate what comes first in your head, just mind-dump every.single.little.thing. that you know you need to-do. Many people come unstuck with planning because they are busy trying to work out the order before they actually just identify the tasks. Mind-dumping allows you to simply get it all out.
The ability to get it from your head and onto a page greatly impacts your perceived sense of control. Once the jobs/tasks are on paper you can begin to let go of the fear of forgetting something (which inevitably leads to more stress). If you’re feeling forgetful, you can always come back to your list.
Step 3: A,B,C Your Tasks
Once the tasks are all jotted down it then becomes time to prioritize. At the front of each task just jot a little A, B, or C next to it. Put the letters at the beginning of the line so you can easily glance down and see which level of priority each task is. So after this step a list might look a little something like this:
A. Pay power bill
B. Mail letter to insurance
B. Organize dogs vet check
A. Return pool key
C. Arrange baby-sitting
I ask myself which things are urgent, which things, if I ran out of time, could slide until tomorrow, which things are quick to complete. You will naturally do this in your mind once you can see the priorities listed out.
Note: Your priorities do not need to be listed with all the A’s at the top, the B’s next and C’s at the end. If you want to, you can rewrite a pretty organized list but it’s an extra step that isn’t necessary as long as you put the letters in the margins and can quickly glance through to see your next “A” task. Personally, I’ve always just written the one list.
Step 4: Tick ‘Em Off!
This is the best step. It’s so important to tick them off as you go, or cross them out. Seeing completed tasks visually provides a sense of accomplishment. If you have a long list, it can also be an important motivator. It helps you see you are achieving something and getting somewhere. When we’re experiencing feelings of stress, we often overlook all that we’re actually achieving.
If you don’t get through your entire list, just start afresh in the morning with a new 2-min to-do list and move the uncompleted tasks into your brain-dump step, so they can be re-prioritized the next day.
Planning is a key element in managing all of the things that may cause you stress. This simple 4-step process quickly becomes second nature if you use it frequently enough. The steps of planning first, releasing your mind by getting it all out, prioritizing, then patting yourself on the back with a giant tick allow your mind to feel in control which gives you more time to take care of the business.
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Hi. I’m Kate Snowise. I’m a Life Coach who helps people get clear on what they want, need and crave, and then helps them take the steps to move towards that.
I believe life is about more than surviving and being good enough. Each of us truly has the ability to thrive and live a beautiful, aligned life where we remember and connect with our authentic selves. I have an MSc in Psychology (the positive kind that concentrates on what is right with you). To read more about my signature coaching program The Thriving Life Project click here.