4 Ways to Shorten that To-Do List and Lower Your Stress

By Dave Balch

If you're like me, you have too many things on your to-do list. Just looking at the list is stressful! How are you going to get everything done?

Here are some things to think about for each item.

1. Are you sure that YOU have to do it?

We all like to have things done in a certain way, and we usually don't allow much wiggle room.

Those of us who fall into that trap find it very stressful to have so much to do, and equally stressful to have someone else do things for us because they may not do them "just right."

Big mistake.

You probably don't even realize that you are thinking this way. Something new comes up that has to be done and you automatically feel your gut tighten because YOU have to do it.

It doesn't even have to be a large task. Even something as simple as a phone call can get your stress level up if it's a call you don't want to make.

Has it ever occurred to you that you could ask someone else to do it for you?

Your husband, your wife, your son or daughter, a friend, a co-worker, etc. There ARE options.

Don't dismiss this idea without giving it some thought. You may be surprised at how easy it would be to delegate some of your to-do's.

Even delegating some really simple things will shorten your list and reduce your stress accordingly.
I often fall into the trap of thinking that it will take more time to explain to someone how to do something than to simply do it myself.

For example, each payroll period I have to fill out a form for California state payroll taxes.

It's a simple form and I know that my assistant could easily do it if I would just take the time to show her how. But for some reason I hold on to thinking that it would just be easier to do it myself.

I'm laughing at myself because here I am telling you a solution that I don't even use ... perhaps that will serve as an even better illustration!

In this case, it may indeed take more time to explain it than to do it myself, but only the first time. If I took the time to explain it then I won't have to do it at all after that. My "explaining time" is actually an investment!

2. Does it have to be done at all?

If you really look at each item on your to-do list, you may discover that some things can simply be deleted without an action at all!

Wouldn't that be nice?

Situations change, and something that had to be done at one time may no longer have to be done at all.
For example, maybe you missed a deadline, so that the item on your list can't be done even if you wanted to do it.

3. Can it be done differently so that it is easier and/or will take less time and/or be less complicated?

We used to cut up carrots for our horses each night. It eventually dawned on me that if I cut up a whole week's carrots at one time it would take less time than doing it each of the other seven nights combined!

4. Can it wait until next week or next month or next year?

Just because something is on your list doesn't mean that it has to be done promptly. Some people put "Christmas shopping" on their lists in July ... C'mon, people!!

So here's something to put on your to-do list: SHORTEN YOUR TO-DO LIST!

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Edited by Jody Smith