Modified To Do Lists for Stressful Times

Your regular TO DO list just won’t cut it during times of overwhelm and exhaustion. In this chat we talk about a modified to do list strategy that helps you to stay focussed on what really matters, deal with worry and anxiety and work in with your mental bandwidth for the day.

Show Notes: For those who prefer to read rather than watch

Yesterday we talked about one of the strategies for reducing overwhelm in your business, which was dealing with your Incompletes and your Messes to try and get some mental bandwidth happening.

Today we’re going to look at modified To-Do lists for times of stress.

I don’t know about you, but I love my To-Do list. I’m a To-Do list queen. I’ve got my notebook list, and I’m usually really, really good.

But in times of stress, you need a modified approach because as we’ve covered in a previous session, right now you’ve got decision fatigue. You’re overwhelmed by so many decisions and so much learning that you can’t focus on everything.

You cannot be a productivity whore (for want of a better term) when you are stressed: It’s just not possible. You’ve got actually to modify your approach.

What I’ve done is use a modified To-Do list.  

My modified list starts with jotting down something I am grateful for – my gratitude practice.

In regular times a gratitude practice is a beneficial way of reminding yourself that there are things to be happy or grateful for. Usually, you do that at the end of the day where you reflect over what happened during that day.

What I do in times of stress is bring that gratitude right up front, to the very beginning of the day, just to remind myself that even at the beginning of the day there are things to be grateful for. For me today, I was grateful that I had enough milk so I could make a decent coffee.

Next thing on the list, put the decisions that you need to make today.

On a previous chat, we’ve talked about decision fatigue. Right now, everyone has to make BIG decisions that have moral implications all day every day: Should you go to the shops? When should you go? What do you need to do to keep your business going? All those decisions make you exhausted just from living day to day!

Many people leave making decisions about business things to the end of the day, but that is when they are most fatigued, which means they either make poor quality decisions or go into procrastination mode.

By jotting down the one or two decisions that you need to make today and putting it on you To-Do list, you tackle them upfront before you do anything else. That means you are drawing on the best possible mental bandwidth that you’ve got, and you can make a better quality decision.

Next thing add your highest “Do It” income-producing priorities. Yesterday we talked about clearing your Incompletes and Messes, and out of that we created two different To-Do lists. We had a 20-minute list of quick jobs and then we had a long list of things that you were going to do.

Every one of us has massive To-Do lists and yesterday we used a filtering process. The first step was to figure out from that long, long list of To Do’s if you only had to do three things, what were the three best things that you could do and if you could nail all those three to three things today, it would be brilliant.

Then we filtered it again. Out of those three, if you only did one, what is the one best thing that you could do that day? Only one. Now you add that one best thing that you could do on your To-Do list.

If the thing is income-producing for your business (that means it generates revenue for your business), then you add it to the Income Producing part of your To-Do list.

Next, look at things to build your business. I have a belief that every business needs to market themselves consistently – and not go through peaks and troughs in their marketing.

Every day, you need to do just one tiny thing to build your business. Each day think through what that one tiny best thing is going to be. It might be picking up the phone and calling a past client just to see how they are. It might be going to a virtual networking event. It might be doing a social media post. That’s all business building. What is your one tiny that you’re going to do today to build your business?

Next on your list, add your delegate it/outsource it items. Yesterday we talked about that there’s going to be some jobs that you don’t have to do. You can outsource these jobs to somebody else, or if you’ve got employees, then you can delegate it to them. So, jot down in your delegation/outsource section the things that you’re going to outsource on that list.

Next section is personal stuff that you’ll do today. Now the personal stuff that you will be going to do today is still important because even in the pandemic we may be trying to embed new habits. It might be doing an exercise class; it might be gowning up and heading out to the shops. Make sure you add these items to your list as well, so you don’t forget your personal priorities.

This next section is probably the most psychologically important for you to do.  

Let’s just take a step back for a second. I want you to think about when you’ve been trying to do a task in the past, and you are totally confused. You had no idea what you were doing, and you just couldn’t tackle it.

Then somebody that you cared about, somebody that you loved came up to you and said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this. I’ll take care of it for you. Just give it to me, and I will deal with it”. And they go and deal with it and sort it out for you. How did you feel? For me, my shoulders drop, and I can feel the stress come off.  

This next section on your To-Do list is where you delegate stuff that you can’t do to that other person.

Huh? Let’s talk about this. This is where you delegate stuff to God, the universe/source, whatever your belief is, to take care of.

Each of us right at this moment has worries. We’re worried about whether our kids are going to be safe. We’re worried about whether there’s going to be a safe vaccine created soon and if it’s going to be able to be rolled out quickly and given to enough people so that we actually can stop the spread.

These might be things that you may be worried about, but they are also things that you can do nothing about.

By documenting your worries and putting it down on your To-Do list, you’re acknowledging that worry, but you’re also saying, “I’ve got nothing.” So, you delegate solving that problem to some other power, somebody else, God, the universe, source, whatever your belief is to take care of it for you.

By documenting your fear, by putting it on your list and saying, “Over to you. You’ve got this task,” you’re acknowledging your fear, but you are also acknowledging somebody else is dealing with it.

Now, just like in a typical business delegation process, if you delegate a task to somebody and then you constantly check-up every five minutes with, “How’s it going? How’s it going? Have you done that yet? Have you done that yet? Have you done that yet? ” all you’re doing is creating stress for you and ticking off the other person.

So right now, the important thing is put it on your list, and delegate it to the universe/ God/ source, whatever your belief system is, and then let them deal with that particular worry.

The final piece of your To-Do list is five-minute jobs to do if you’ve got time. Yesterday we created a list of quick less than 20-minute jobs so that you can add ONE of those. Or you can add a couple of quick five minute jobs you can do only if you’ve got time.

Be gentle on yourself and try the modified To-Do list to see if it helps reduce your stress and allow you to focus on what’s most important in your business right now.

You can download a copy of the Modified To Do list below and test it out to see if it helps you maintain your focus during stressful times.

Daily to do list tasksheet

About the Author

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle (BA - Psych/Industrial Relations) is the Chief Web Wizard at Heart Harmony Communications. A self-confessed multipotentialite, Ingrid shamelessly blends her passions of human resources, psychology, web design and copywriting. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.
Bowler hat with lightbulb.

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