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17 Ways to Tackle That Ever-Growing To-Do List

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Anxiety tends to creep in when it feels like there’s no end to your ever-expanding to-do list. No matter how many things you check off the list, more things appear.

In our busy, hustle-focused world, you can feel obligated to add so many things to your list that suddenly, you feel stuck in survival mode and far from any semblance of thriving. Want to stop feeling like you’re drowning (especially in work tasks)?

It is critical to have practical strategies in place to regain control and find calm amidst the chaos. Here are 17 ways to tackle your to-do list and reduce anxiety when your tasks seem to be multiplying.

1. Practicing Positive Self-Talk

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Positive self-talk helps you feel calmer and in control by merging kindness with responsibility. Aim for balance to ease your mind because too much responsibility is often linked to increased worry. Studies have consistently shown a link between positive self-talk and anxiety reduction.

Here are some practical self-talk tips that you can try as a kickoff:

  • “I’ll focus on what I’m doing right now; that’s my priority.”
  • “I prefer to do more, but I’ll accept what’s realistic.”
  • “What’s the best action for me at this moment?”

2. Crafting a Manageable To-Do List

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For a daily to-do list, aim for 4 or 5 main tasks with some smaller ones in between. Some organizing experts say you should do a certain number each day, while others say there’s no specific number you have to stick to.

Remember to review how long your goals actually take to accomplish, as it can inform future task lists. Regular self-assessment can help you better determine how much you can get done with the available resources and set more realistic short-term goals.

3. Simplify Your Workspace

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A cluttered workspace leads to a cluttered mind. Adopt a minimalist workspace with only the necessary tools and items, and keep it organized to minimize distractions. The same can go for other spaces in your life, including your car and home.

4. Setting a Ritual

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Rituals can mark the transition between work and rest, signaling to your brain the start or end of your productive period. Adopting a morning ritual such as exercise, journaling, or a healthy breakfast can prepare your mind for the day’s work, giving it space to process before jumping right into the day.

5. Tracking Time

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Sometimes, feeling stressed makes us underestimate our work in relation to time. Try tracking your time to understand how much you genuinely work. This observation can naturally improve habits.

Manage your time rather than letting time manage you. Set specific times for specific activities and stick to them to reduce cognitive load. Time-blocking is an excellent way to encourage hyper-focus and productivity in manageable chunks.

6. Setting Boundaries

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Avoid responding to requests outside work hours; it helps create a work-life balance. Most people will understand and respect this. When you respond during work hours, it enables you to prioritize better.

Instead of assuming urgency, ask when a task is needed. Let people know when you’ll respond. Say it clearly, even if something takes two weeks to complete.

7. Finding Realistic Paths

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Sometimes, we assume things like “I need to work harder than everyone.” These thoughts can stress us out and lead to procrastination. Think about what you believe success requires. When feeling stuck, challenge these beliefs. A study found that behaviors tied to perfectionistic concerns like workaholism and procrastination – are linked to more significant anxiety.

Identify assumptions that are stressing you out and replace them with realistic ones. For example, remind yourself that you don’t have to outshine everyone in your group to succeed. Being dedicated and doing your best work is what matters most to achieve success. Experiment with different thoughts to find what feels most genuine and helpful.

8. Take a Break from Stress

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When you take time off from work, and everything’s okay, you learn that it’s alright to relax about your tasks. If you want to feel less stressed about work, act calmer.

You can do this in your own way. Imagine how a calmer version of yourself would act regarding tasks. Then, identify 3 to 5 actions that this relaxed version would take.

9. Imagine Finishing the Job

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When you picture yourself completing a task, it can ease your anxiety and make you more excited to do it. This technique creates a mental image of how good it will feel when the task is done. When you start to see the positive outcome, the task seems less daunting and more achievable, and you won’t feel inclined to procrastinate.

10. Bullet Journaling

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Bullet Journaling is a customizable system that helps organize and prioritize your life. Beyond keeping tasks organized, bullet journaling serves as a mindfulness exercise, requiring you to be present as you reflect on your day and plan out your to-dos.

11. Ditch Multitasking 

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Multitasking is a myth. When you concentrate on one task before starting another and give your full attention, you can do better quality work and feel more in control of what you’re doing. Doing all at once leads you to feel stressed and overloaded.

Doing multiple things simultaneously saves time (sometimes), but focusing on one thing at a time often leads to better results and less stress.

12. Setting Aside “Worry Time”

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Dedicate a specific part of your day to thinking about your concerns or worries. Constricting worries to a particular time helps you gain control over your thoughts and keeps you from internalizing them (aka stuffing them down deep until they explode). This way, you can better handle your tasks and find solutions without worrying about them all day. 

13. Appreciate Yourself

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The constant pressure of a to-do list can motivate us to get to work, but it needs to be balanced with the joy of achievement. Savor the feel-good effect of completing tasks. Treat yourself to every step forward, whether it’s a break you deserve or a special lunch. Remember that each small goal achieved brings you closer to your big dreams!

14. Mindfulness and Meditation

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Mindfulness can ground us in the present moment, helping to reduce anxiety and provide clarity. Take time each day for mindful breathing exercises or meditation to calm your mind and reduce the impact of stressful thoughts.

You can also apply mindfulness to your work routine by noticing and accepting your thoughts and feelings about your to-do list without judgment.

15. Delegating and Collaborating

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You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegating tasks can be more efficient and less stressful. Assign anything that others can do 80% as well as possible, freeing up your time and improving mental health. 

16. Give Yourself a Digital Detox

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Digital detox means refraining from using electronic connecting devices such as smartphones and computers for the time being. Reduced screen time can lead to improved sleep, more meaningful in-person connections, and a decrease in information overload, all of which contribute to a reduction in anxiety.

17. Strengthen Your Support System

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Surround yourself with supportive colleagues, friends, and family who can provide encouragement and relieve your anxiety with shared waves of laughter. 

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