Is Your To-Do List Running You Ragged?

Stressed woman holding a long to-do list

If your To-Do-List is anything like my To-Do-List, it is like a trick candle.  Remember trick candles?  You blow them out and then poof!  The flame reappears, and everyone laughs, but you.   Well, on days that are crammed in with more To-Do list items than is realistic, things start to feel like a trick day!  Normally, I’m quite good at beating the To-Do list into submission, but lately it has gotten the better of me.

And that got me thinking about you and well, most of us out there who easily fall into the go-go-go trap.  Impossible-To-Do-List-Syndrome (ITDLS) is a symptom.  Work overload aside, ITDLS taps into several serious intertwined issues that work against our goals and desires for success, takes its toll on our productivity, home life and more importantly, can pose a serious threat to our wellbeing, physically, emotionally and mentally.

My suspicions about ITDLS were confirmed last Sunday when I read Tony Shwartz’s NYTImes article, Relax, You’ll Be More Productive (which by the way was the most e-mailed NY TImes article for the next two days).  He writes:

“Think for a moment about your typical workday. Do you wake up tired? Check your e-mail before you get out of bed? Skip breakfast or grab something on the run that’s not particularly nutritious? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Run from meeting to meeting with no time in between? Find it nearly impossible to keep up with the volume of e-mail you receive? Leave work later than you’d like, and still feel compelled to check e-mail in the evenings?

More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

I see Immossible-To-Do-List-Syndrome as an opportunity to inspect the following areas of your job and your life:

  • Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help siYour job description is not realistic.  Talk to your boss, manager or team (and to yourself if you are a sole-proprietor) and together, strategize ways to improve the situation.  Trust me, they will likely be struggling too and be happy you had the courage to bring this to the table.
  • You are a time optimist.  Listing things out on your to-do list is a very different reality than actually getting to and completing the things on your list.  Be realistic in your assessment of how longs thing take to do and then plan accordingly.  You may have to redistribute things on your list, delegate, ask for help or re-prioritize.  If need be, take a time management course or read a great book like Julie Morgenstern’s Time Management From the Inside Out.
  • Interruptions and The Unexpected.  Interruptions and the unexpected are guaranteed to part of your workday.  The trick is to factor them in so they are manageable.  Maybe that means posting office hours, scheduling in e-mail time or allowing extra time each day for “chaos” time.  This will lessen the chaos factor and up the productivity factor.
  • You are Omitting Self Care Activities.  I have been guilty of this many times.  I list everything on my list except my work outs, yoga classes, dinner prep, down time, fun time, etc.  These activities are crucial to your health, both mentally and physically.  Calendar them in and make this just as high a priority as your work.
  • Factor in Sleep, Rest and Downtime. Without enough rest and downtime, no matter what is on your To-Do list, you will be less productive, push harder and likely resort to caffeine, sugar, quick meals on the run and cancelled workouts.  It quickly becomes a viscous circle.

To quote Mr. Schwartz once more, “Time is the resource on which we’ve relied to get more accomplished. When there’s more to do, we invest more hours. But time is finite, and many of us feel we’re running out, that we’re investing as many hours as we can while trying to retain some semblance of a life outside work.  Although many of us can’t increase the working hours in the day, we can measurably increase our energy.”

If you haven’t already read these earlier blog posts, now is a good time to check them out!  (And yes, you DO have time!)

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 10.49.22 AMUntil the next time, be happy, energized and productive!

As always, here’s to your health!

Vivienne Fleischer, PBE Co-Founder

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  • Ergosmac
    Posted at 19:55h, 05 March Reply

    As always, Fabulous article, Vivienne! Thanks!

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