9 Things To Do When You Have Too Much To Do And Not Enough Time

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Life can get so busy at times. And let’s face it, there are always more things to do. Laundry is a task that never ends, dishes need cleaning, groceries need to be shopped for, errands need running. And those are just the basics of life.

That’s not even counting responsibilities for work, extracurricular activities, friendships, a relationship, or even a second job if you happen to be hustling on the side.

So how do you stay ahead of it all? How can you get everything done when it seems you have too much to do?

1. Make a list of your responsibilities.

The first step is to get organized so that you can assess what you need to do. Don’t try to keep a list in your head. A person’s memory isn’t the most reliable thing. You will likely find yourself forgetting important things you need to do.

Instead, use a journal, a notebook, a note app, or a document to make a list of your responsibilities.

Don’t bother trying to rank or rate them yet. Just get your responsibilities out of your head and written down.

2. Figure out your priorities.

Once you have a list of your responsibilities, assign priorities by ranking each entry on a scale of 1 (least important) to 5 (most important.) Consider each responsibility in the appropriate context for the situation.

For example, let’s say you have a work project due tomorrow. Well, suppose you are the kind of person who prioritizes your regular life over work. In which case, that may not rank as the top if you have other responsibilities. But if it’s something that must be done or it will negatively affect your work or your life, maybe it would need to rank as a 5 now.

You can help sort out your priorities by considering the negative consequences of each responsibility. How can not doing it negatively affect you? Is this something that you must get done now? Or can it wait until a different time? Are other people relying on you to get this particular thing done promptly?

And don’t think that this list and these ranking scores can’t change once assigned. In fact, they should be changed as and when they become more or less important.

For example, imagine that your mobile phone contract is up for renewal in a month. The task of comparing deals and making sure you’re on the most appropriate and best value tariff might start life as a low-importance task where other tasks can take precedent over it. But the nearer it gets to the end of your contract, the higher that score might become. It doesn’t have to reach a 5 before you do it, however. If, once it becomes a 3, you find that you have completed all of the 5s and 4s on your list, you can set about tackling it and ticking it off.

So look at your list regularly – multiple times a week where appropriate – and change scores as needed to reflect the urgency of the situation.

3. Create time for priorities.

Now that you have a list of responsibilities and priorities, you can create a schedule for working through them. Pick a tool that best suits your ability to use it. A paper planner or a spreadsheet planner are both good options for tracking your progress.

Start with your high-priority responsibilities and schedule out your time. Then, consider how much time it will take to complete the task and work it into your calendar.

Create time in your schedule for rest, relaxation, and self-care. People with busy lives often forego things like sleep, exercise, or regularly eating when they are loaded up with things to do for the day.

But undermining your physical health and self-care will only worsen your mental health. It will cause more stress to load up and put you at risk of burning out. Then you won’t get anything done because you won’t have the mental or physical energy to keep going.

A schedule is a helpful way to pace yourself. And treat those periods of self-care as essential for your well-being – because they are.

4. Be wary of negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk is a great way to overwhelm yourself with additional anxiety and stress. Nurturing a kind, positive environment in your mind can help you navigate your responsibilities and get more things done because you’re not wasting time feeling overwhelmed.

Don’t let negative thoughts perpetuate themselves. Instead, take time to replace them with positive affirmations like:

“I am doing the best I can.”

“I will find a way to complete my project.”

“I am capable of doing this.”

Or whatever kind of positive mantra works for you.

(Author’s Note: I just want to interject here. Speaking as someone who has lived with long-term Bipolar-depression for decades now, I am fully aware that this advice will elicit an eye-roll from people who struggle with depression or low feelings of self-worth. “Oh, it’s just that easy! Think positively!” No, it’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. Especially when you’re weighed down by negative intrusive thoughts or hopelessness, but it really does make a difference once you can make it a habit. Positive and negative thoughts have a hard time existing in the same space. If you nurture the negative, there’s no room for the positive to grow, and vice versa. Don’t give up. It gets easier the more you do it. And it does actually help improve the overall environment of your thoughts.)

5. Aim for complete, not perfect.

Perfection is the enemy of complete. Perfectionists have difficulty getting goals accomplished and knocking out their responsibilities because they tend to focus too much on the final product. If it’s not perfect, then it’s not right.

But, here’s a little secret for you: a majority of things don’t need to be perfect. They just need to get done. Granted, that may not be good advice if you happen to be an engineer or a surgeon, but most things aren’t that imperative.

Do the job right, do the job well, but don’t burden yourself with the expectations of perfection because you will end up wasting so much time trying to reach an unattainable standard. For example, laundry. Yes, get that laundry folded or hung and put away. But that laundry doesn’t all have to be perfectly folded in the exact same way, so it’s all perfectly stacked and neatly filed away.

Or maybe it’s a work responsibility. You really need to get this project done, but you’ve finished it, and now you’re spending time agonizing over the details of the completed work.

Finish your work, do it well, file it under completed in your brain, and get moving to the next thing.

6. Don’t accept additional responsibility.

Are you able to say “no”? No is the single most important word in your vocabulary for protecting your time and not overwhelming yourself. You must tell people no when you don’t have the time, or you don’t want to add more responsibility to your schedule.

Not everyone can say no. Sometimes, this sort of thing is rooted in being a survivor of child or domestic abuse. It may also be wrapped up in other mental health issues that need to be improved. If you can’t say no, for whatever reason, it would be a good idea to discuss the situation with a certified mental health therapist so you can get to the bottom of it and get a professional opinion on the issue. Click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.

There are many different ways to say no. And saying no to a demanding boss at work can be a big problem if they aren’t reasonable. A tactical way to do this is:

“I just don’t have enough time to add that on top of my other responsibilities.”

This can be effective because it communicates that, hey, you are already working as hard as you can in the time that you have available!

You have to be careful with accepting new responsibilities at work because those responsibilities generally don’t disappear. They just become one more thing for you to do. You must draw your own boundaries to protect yourself and your space.

7. Delegate responsibility where you’re able.

One way to lighten up your overall load is to delegate responsibility to people that can help you in whatever way makes sense for you. That might be family members that can pick up some of the slack around the house. For example, kids might be able to help with laundry, doing dishes, or general cleaning. Likewise, the spouse should be contributing to helping with housework and chores that need to get done.

Or, if you have enough income, it can be extremely helpful to outsource some of the work. Paying for a weekly housecleaning service to do laundry or general cleaning around the house can make a lot of sense if you have more important things to do. Hiring a landscaping crew can be great for keeping your yard neat and tidy.

And then you have the world of virtual assistants. You can hire a virtual assistant to do just about anything you need to get done if you look closely enough.

For example, let’s say you’re running a home business. You have a load of work to do, but you keep getting interrupted by emails and phone calls. Well, paying a virtual assistant to handle reading those emails, taking notes, and taking phone messages may be a more cost effective use of your time so you can focus on your core competency.

You might also hire a virtual assistant to help you plan a vacation, find a tutor for your children, compare energy prices, or other personal life-related things that you don’t have time to do.

8. Employ the Five-Minute Rule.

The Five-Minute Rule can save you so much time and future headaches. What is it? Well, if an activity will take under five minutes to complete, just do it and get it over with. That may not sound like much, but it really adds up over time.

For example, consider doing dishes. You may have a bowl of cereal for breakfast and deposit the bowl in the sink. As the day passes, you keep adding more dishes with lunch, snacks, or dirty glasses. It would take maybe two minutes to wash those dirty dishes as you create them and deposit them in the drying rack.

But if you don’t, at some point, you’ll have to devote a chunk of time to specifically washing the dishes. And that chunk of time can easily get pushed around if you happen to have work or family responsibilities pop up throughout the day.

Dishes are easy to clean when they are freshly dirty. Stuff usually wipes right off with minimal scrubbing. But that isn’t always the case when they’ve been allowed to sit and harden for a few hours. So what could have been a five-minute job could easily turn into a twenty-minute job.

And that doesn’t just go for dishes – lots of tasks take longer to complete when you delay them in the first place. And these extra 5 or 10 minutes here or there add up.

Knocking out the small responsibilities with the Five-Minute Rule can help you keep ahead of the game.

9. Focus on the present.

Unfortunately, we often create additional stress and anxiety in our lives by focusing too much on things we can’t control. And the number one thing we can’t control is the future. Mindfulness and being focused on the present is a powerful tool to reduce that stress and anxiety.

Sure, you can make plans. You can neatly orchestrate how you want everything to go, what goals you want to pursue and fine-tune your plan for accomplishing that goal. However, life doesn’t care at all about your plans or what you want to do. There are plenty of times when we just get what we are given, and we have to find a way to make the most of it.

That doesn’t mean that we neglect to plan at all. After all, just a few steps ago, we told you to develop a plan for completing your responsibilities. No, the key is balance. Plan, but don’t spend your time agonizing over every detail. Flexibility is key.

You are a capable person who can problem solve. You can find a solution if a problem comes up with one of your responsibilities. That solution exists somewhere and is more readily accessible than ever with the power of search engines.

Try to stay focused on the task at hand. Don’t waste your valuable mental and emotional energy worrying about things that don’t require your attention yet. Instead, let everything have its time and place so you can lower your stress and get more done.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.