What to Do About an Overwhelming To-Do List

todolist_april2013THE LIST. That list of things you have to get done or at the least, it’s the list of things you think you have to get done. But do you have the feeling that you’re forgetting something? If you’ve found yourself in a situation where your to-do list is overwhelming, here are a few tips for getting it under control.

When is it Due?
When you find your to-do list is out of control, sometimes you need to just focus on the things that need to be done soon. There is nothing worse than ASAP; it means everything and nothing. Be realistic about when something has to be done, ask for specific clarification, and pay attention to what you’ll need done before you can complete a task. You can’t plan to pack boxes for shipping that afternoon if the products aren’t going to be ready until the next morning. Don’t forget to take team members or other vendors into consideration when figuring out when something needs to be done.

How Long Will it Take?
Sometimes you’ve got three or four tasks on your to-do list that will just take a few minutes and a couple tasks that are going to take much longer. If you find your list overwhelming, and deadlines allow, see if you can take care of a few quick tasks right away. You’ll feel much better after you mark a few things off the list, giving you renewed strength to focus on the more arduous tasks.

Who Else?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Review your list and see if there is anything you can ask for help with or decline. Most people enjoy helping others and find it easier to say yes than no, resulting in a to-do list they can’t keep up with. Also, seek the advice of your manager when prioritizing your to-do list. Don’t assume everything has the same priority level. Check in with your leader to see what expectations or suggestions they have.

What are your best tips for taking control of your to-do list? Share them in the comments section below.


  1. Nina

    Your to-do list should be as clear as day but there is no such thing, so one must approach the accomplishment of the task to complete the list with full clarity of the mind. Crossing off tasks as they are done are good, and may help establish due dates for any up and coming lists.

    1. Jared Cole

      Great advice, Nina. Everybody has a way to handle their to-do list, so everybody should do what’s best for them.

      I like to have my to-do list in descending order of importance. For some reason, I tend to knock off the less important things at the bottom of the list, so I just “trick” myself into doing the most important things first.

      Thanks again for your comment, Nina!

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