How to Keep Your To-Do List From Becoming Overwhelming


How to Keep Your To-Do List From Becoming Overwhelming - Just Bee Blog

If you’re anything like me, then lists are just simply a way of life! 🙂 But sometimes we can get a little overly ambitious as we draft our to-do lists…and end up overwhelmed rather than productive. Today I wanted to share a four strategies I’ve discovered that help me avoid discouragement and stay on the path of productivity!

How to keep your to-do list from becoming too overwhelming:

1 // Don’t list the obvious. Make sure you aren’t putting items on your to-do list that you are naturally already going to do. We use something called “Behavior Bucks” as little rewards in elementary school, to hand out to students who are “going above and beyond what is expected.” They shouldn’t receive a Behavior Buck for sitting in their chair, or bringing a pencil to class. Those tasks are just plain expected. And to-do lists function the same way. To-do lists should be for tasks outside of the most basic normal routine. For instance, I don’t need to put “shower” or “eat lunch” on my list! If it’s a task that others may not think to do, but that you automatically take care of anyway, then it doesn’t need to be on your list. For me, those are things like “wipe the kitchen table,” or “make lunch for tomorrow.” Since I will do those tasks anyway, I don’t need to bog down my to-do list by including them. Make sure you take out items that are going to be taken care of anyway.

2 // Name the list according to its true deadline. If you’re feeling ambitious and you’ve got 27 items in mind, your list probably shouldn’t be called “To Do Today!” Be realistic. If you still really feel each of those tasks is important, perhaps name the list “Things to Accomplish This Week.” Don’t set yourself up for failure!!

3 // Give yourself grace. It’s amazing what a brief attitude reminder like that can do! One of my favorite quotes by John Steinbeck is posted above my desk: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” The world will not end if your to-do list is not completed by tonight! And trust me – I’ve had to deal with this attitude in myself again and again. My husband has often reminded me of this one! Let’s start giving ourselves a little more room to not be perfect.

4 // Categorize it! This way it doesn’t become a crowded mess of task after task after task! I wrote about my uniquely categorized to-do list and how to set it up here. Having distinct sections really helps the list look less intimidating.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your to-do lists? How do you combat it?

Looking for more? Check out my 4 Strategies for a Healthier Approach to Productivity!



    1. Thank you, Daisy! I totally agree – even setting a sooner deadline for ourselves can often backfire! It’s always worth it to be honest – even just to ourselves as we write our lists! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Beth!! That is such a good way to write your lists! I love the “blog posts” and “future” ideas…it would really help to keep from getting overwhelmed! Thanks for following along! 🙂

  1. Yes! Kelsey, I totally get what you mean! It really can be fun to check off all of those little items…but then when I’d do that, I felt like I didn’t really get to anything that day. So now I leave those off 🙂 I look forward to checking out your list-making post!

  2. I love the idea of giving ourselves grace when we don’t complete something on our list, but what do you do with that list item then? I usually leave that “to-do” page in my notebook in the hopes that I’ll catch up on it later, but then my catch-up list tends to get as long as my list for that day, so I get a little overwhelmed.

    1. That’s a great question, Heather! That is something I deal with, too.. I usually move those unfinished items to the next day’s to-do list…but when they start to make the next day’s list super long, I reevaluate how urgent each item really is. And then I look at what I want to get done each day for the week, inserting maybe 1-2 of the unfinished items into each day. That way it spreads them out across several days so they don’t overwhelm one day. I hope that makes sense! Thanks for following along! 🙂

  3. I legit start my “to-do” lists with good intention with things like “laundry” and “email so and so”. Then all of a sudden something happens and I’ve written out my five year plan and go to bad feeling like a failure! haha I like the category idea and to be realistic. I need to start doing that! haha

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