Self Care: Why you should never write another 'To-Do' list again..
Often when I'm stressed out or overwhelmed, I write a 'to-do list'. When there are so many thoughts swirling around my head, and things I have to get done - writing them down on paper seems like a practical way to get them down and stop stressing about forgetting what needs to be done.
I did this for years, thinking it was a logical way to manage my tasks and not let them overwhelm me. Little did I know, it was actually overwhelming me more. Here's what would happen: I'd write a 'to-do list'. I'd feel overwhelmed looking at the 20 or so tasks on it that I had to complete in a single day. I felt like I wasn't making progress after doing a few tasks. I'd focus the easy tasks. I'd procrastinate. I'd spend time focusing on the little tasks to avoid what I didn't want to do. Alot of the time, I wouldn't even finish it.
So I worked out a better way of managing my tasks. I've been doing this for a few weeks now and I have to tell you - my to do list is just as long, but I finish everything my midday. Previously, I wasn't even finishing it in a day. I feel positive and productive and so much less stressed. Now, I don't fall asleep stressing about what needs to be done or wondering if I'm forgetting to do things.
WRITE A DESTRESS LIST - Instead of a to do list, write a 'Destress List'. I know you're probably thinking, what's the difference? But there really is one.
Instead of writing the tasks you need to do, write a list of everything stressing you out. It might be that your house is messy, you need to wash clothes, that your emails need answering, maybe you're stressed about money or your business. Perhaps you're worried about someone or feel bad for not keeping in touch with someone else. Maybe you need to go to the dentist, or get a pap smear or do 100 other things you keep 'meaning to do'. Write it all down. Everything that is stressing you out today and everything that stresses you out as it occasionally pops into your head. (We all have these!)
OUTSOURCE - Now, I know this won't be for everyone - but if you have a partner, or a friend, or someone who you are close to who you can ask for help - ask them for help. Your first day of doing this list will likely be the longest list you'll write. Go through the list with them and ask them what they can do. The first day I did this list, was my most intense for sure. I showed my partner and I 'outsourced' 6 of my 28 tasks to him. This was mostly little things like washing, dishes, cleaning the house and walking the dogs. Even getting groceries. I wrote these tasks onto a list for him, and crossed them off of mine.
I only really used the outsource step on my first day, but if you have days where you feel there is too much (especially small and domestic tasks) feel free to do this as often as you'd like.
CAN'T FIX / CAN'T FIX TODAY - The next step is to go through each stress on your list and realistically ask yourself. Is this something you can fix? I crossed "Roadworks on our street are loud and annoying" because realistically, I can't change this. Some stress just exists and that's okay. Put a 'CFT' next to anything you can't fix today. For example, I wrote CFT next to 'need to go to the dentist' because even though it's stressing me out, I can't afford to book an appointment right now, so I don't need to stress about it right now.
MONEY - About 5 of my stresses were money related. A bill, or a worry about my business. I wrote an M next to any of the money related ones. I know a lot of people stress about money, especially when they own their own business. I didn't actually fix any money stress immediately, but categorising them under 'M' and essentially mentally checking it off of my stress list made me feel a lot better. I was aware of it but allow yourself to not stress about it for the moment.
ACTION - After outsourcing, working out what I can't/can't fix today and also categorising my money stress - I was left with 7 things on my list. SEVEN out of 28! I wrote an 'A' Next to these 3 things and these are my actionable tasks for the day.
PICK THREE - I didn't just write myself a to do list with these 7 stresses though. I don't believe you should ever write the words 'to do' again. If anything, put 'to manage'. Picking three tasks (I usually write these on a post it note) feels a lot less stressful than 7, or more. It is so manageable. I always pick the two main things that I don't want to do first. Today it was packing a huge order (which I knew would take a long time) and making a plate which I just have been putting off. I picked those 2 tasks, and then an easy one "Sweep floors". By the time I finished the first task, I only had one big one left and then sweeping the floors felt easy. It's amazing how quickly you smash through three tasks, and how accomplished you feel.
REPEAT - My second list is always really easy and I already feel so accomplished having done the things I didn't want to do. I try and group similar tasks in lots of three like cleaning tasks, email/online tasks etc. I find most days I only write 2-3 lists of 3 and I always seem to now be finished everything I was stressing about / 'had to do' by midday.
BE REALISTIC - The first day was the main day that I had CFT and CF/M stresses written down. After I finished the first day's actionable tasks, I had so much free time/energy to think about my money stresses and workout actual positive changes. If you're stressing about money, workout what changes you can make that will actually mean you stress list. Maybe this is a budget, looking for a second job or even just working out your finances. There is also only so much you can actually do - sometimes things just are, and you need to let go of certain stresses. I found being aware of them, writing them down and realistically thinking about each stress (even if I couldn't fix it) gave me a better perspective and helped me not to worry about it constantly.
For your can't fix today tasks, think about each one and workout when/how you can fix these things. Don't beat yourself up if it's not immediate. But have some sort of plan (even if it's just "come back to this in a week") and you'll be amazed how freeing it will be to not have it pop up constantly in your mind as a stress. Sometimes I still remember these things, but now I think "yeah cool I'm all over that" or "I've got a plan for it" and move on with my life.
WRITE A FUN LIST - Now you've done everything you HAVE to do, write a fun list, call it a 'to do list' if you want - but everything on it has to be things you WANT to do. Maybe it's go shopping, cook a nice meal, write a blog post, call a friend. The mental bandwidth from stressing about what you need to do all day is now totally free and you will have so much energy and time to redirect into doing the things you love. Sometimes I even do deep cleaning or yard work but I'm excited that I now have the energy and time to do these things - I feel so accomplished at the end of the day. I always put self care activities on my fun list too. Like having a long bath, making a cup of tea, washing my hair, going for a walk, etc etc etc.
Try this for a few days. If you're someone who feels overwhelmed often and anxious about your overwhelming to do list, this will totally transform your days. Let me know if you try it and how much of a difference it makes!! It literally changed my life so much so I'm hoping sharing it with you guys will help other people too! Enjoy
Love & Sunshine