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Home, Family, Success, Peace… Can a woman really have it all?

Overwhelmed? Make a Master List

There are times when a hundred priorities seem to be pulling you in different directions. The mind keeps jumping from one thing to another. It is hard to focus because you know that you still have so many things to do. What also happens is, the same thoughts keep coming back on a regular basis. So much mental energy gets expended and it becomes quite exhausting.

The easiest way to break out of feelings of overwhelm is write down everything that is stampeding through your mind. Getting it out on paper gives you an immediate sense of taking charge of the situation.

A master to do list acts like a mind dump. It clears the clutter in the head and helps you organize your priorities. The very act of sitting down and writing that list will unlock a lot of energy that is needed to get things done.

I prefer to stick to a pen and my diary for writing down my master to do list as well as daily lists. I feel that writing is a little slower than typing and since your writing is unique it helps you connect to the list better. Also, if you use any other device to keep track of your tasks, the device has many more in built distractions.

These are the steps I follow to clear my mind and break out of overwhelm:

Write Everything Down

Don’t edit anything. Write down all that you want to or need to do. A master list is not time specific, so you can include anything that is to be done in future. You don’t need to categorise just as yet. Just number each separate entry.

 Define Broad Categories

I had done a post on having a distilled future vision. It is easier to have such a vision when you divide life into broad categories. I have home organization, health and fitness, kids’ learning, spiritual growth, other learning and development, writing, creative pursuits, maintaining relationships (including keeping in touch with friends) etc. as my categories.

 Assign tasks to Categories

Assign each item on the master list to a category. If something is not easily classifiable, you can always create a new one. I just write the beginning alphabet in capital for each category near each item. S for spiritual, O for organising and so on.

I have portioned out my diary (you can use a three ring binder) for each category. That way it is easier for me to revisit my ideas. If any new idea crops up, I can just open up the category list and jot it down there.

 Decide Current Focus

Pick up tasks from the master list you want to currently focus on and put it on your monthly or weekly to do list. Here you can also decide how much you want to focus on each area of life. Sometimes one area keep us so occupied that some other areas get neglected. If you are unhappy with that, then you will have to take a stance and decide what proportion of your time you need to give to each of those areas for achieving the kind of balance you like.

 Plan Each Day the Night Before

 Sometimes when I have been busy all day and I lie down to sleep, my mind refuses to settle down. It keeps churning out thoughts of things to do. The best way to calm the mind a have a good night’s rest is to write the daily list the night before.

Some of the items on a daily list would come from the master list. Now, the master list does not always list something that can be completed at a go. For example, in my creative category I might have mentioned “learn to crochet a hanky edging”. That is something which would have to be worked at on a progressive basis. You could decide to work on crochet every Friday or something like that. Then on Thursday night you can put it on the list for the next day.

Other items on the daily list would be just tasks life keeps throwing at you on a regular basis- a school project, menu plan for dinner guests etc.

Have you felt overwhelmed lately? Want to clear you mind? Make a master list.


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8 thoughts on “Overwhelmed? Make a Master List

  1. aarathiselvan on said:

    I love this Shankari! There are days when I live by my lists and days when I need to let them go and both are days for me and good strategies too. I love how you incorporate the need for flexibility in these lists. I think its important atleaast for me, because I can get very anal about my lists 🙂

  2. A very well written post..Having a list does help a great deal in taking control of time. The challenge however, is to stick to it. There are days when I just make a list and do not bother to even follow up . The key is to make it habit and practise this till it becomes a second nature.

    • Try this. Use the master list only as a mind dump. Pick up no more than three items for your daily list and do them. The rest of the day you can do routine stuff. You can use the timer to motivate yourself. The sense of accomplishment which comes from getting things done will help you gain momentum for the next day.

  3. I so wanted this reminder. You pointed it right, it is so important to write it down instead of typing on keyboard. I need to bookmark this.

    • Thanks, Jas. Actually I needed it too. So, as I made mine I did a post alongside. This has always worked for me in the past. No matter how chaotic things get.

  4. Now that I have almost forgotten how to write you want me to prepare a list with pen and paper! But I guess I’ll do it soon sometime. I terribly need to offload a lot of junk out of that puny shell of mine.

    • :-)) I prefer a pen and paper. You can try and see if it works for you. The other modern ways should work too.
      Don’t call it a shell. Are you fishing for a compliment? 😛

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