Overwhelmed? 5 Steps to Make Your To-do List Manageable

Sometimes your workload seems impossible. Kat Boogaard offers these five tips on Inc.com to get your to-do list under control.

To-do List1. Prioritize.

Prioritization is almost always step one. Boogaard recommends creating a matrix by drawing a square and dividing it into four sections. On the left, label the two boxes “urgent” and “not urgent.” At the top, label the boxes “important” and “not important.”

Then, fill in the boxes with the things you need to get done. Those tasks labeled as “urgent” and “important” are the obvious places to begin.

2. Focus on value.

With each task you add to your to-do list, focus on how much value you get from completing it. Does it really matter? If it doesn’t matter, you can cross it off your list.

3. Delegate what you can.

At this point, you should be left with a list of things that really need to be done. But do they have to be done by you or could you delegate them to someone else? Usually tasks in the “urgent” but “not important” section of the matrix are the items that are good to delegate. Even if you don’t have someone to shift the tasks to, there may be automated solutions you can use to manage daily, repetitive tasks.

4. Plan ahead and notify.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you still might have too much to do. Prioritize what is left and see if you’re likely to miss any deadlines. If it looks like that’s the case, let people know right away. It’s always better to give advanced warning of a delay.

5. Just get started.

While the above steps will help, it will take time—something you mostly likely don’t have. “Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to drop all of the hacks, tips, and tricks and just start chipping away at that seemingly never-ending to-do list,” Boogaard writes.

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