Here's the thing: what to do when there's too much to do

what to do when there's too much to doIt’s the end of the first week of January. I would guess that it’s possibly one of the most emotionally varied weeks of the year. We go from feeling like anything’s possible to complete overwhelm (with a hint of beating ourselves up for being human) when we realise how much there is to do.

Ah, my friends. Let’s just take a breath, shall we?

Inhale, exhale.

Yes, that’s a little better.

I, myself, have been on the rollercoaster of too much to do this week. Actually, since Christmas Eve, though it was more manageable before Monday. Because I have big plans for my business this year, this lifetime. There are lots of things I want to do, lots of ideas I have to help small businesses, to create fun and helpful tools. Retreats, workshops, ecourses, mentoring packages, new services – the list is loooooong.

And it turns out I also have big plans for myself, my life, my relationship too: we’re planning to move this year to be closer to Ryan’s son. We’ve been talking about it for a while, and then over Christmas it felt right to move it forward to earlier this year. And we’re not just moving down the road, we’re moving to a new city and area, one that I don’t know.

So my list got longer, because it then included researching areas, looking at houses, planning a move, doing all the utilities faff and on and on.

And here’s what I realised: I can’t do all those things. I can’t do everything, but I can do anything.

If I’m deciding to commit to moving (which I am, and I’m excited about it!), then I have to push some things back, like a whole load of new services and ecourses and workshops. They will have to happen after the move, in the second half of this year. Because seriously, I can’t do it all.

I also realised that March, when I’m running my retreat, will have to be a month of no additional work, and a full week off after the retreat. Last year, I was wiped out. I put a LOT of energy into that weekend, so it makes sense that I need time to restore afterwards.

Do I feel happy that I’m not going to be able to get everything done, as I hoped, in the next three months? No. But I feel peaceful. It feels achievable and very much like I’m taking care of myself within all these big plans, and that is most important.

(You may remember that, in my first six months of business, I bought a flat, renovated it and moved into it. Yeah, I learnt some things in that process.)

So here’s the thing:

Whether you’re planning to re-locate your life or not, we’re all susceptible to piling too many things on our to-do list and then feeling like failures when we don’t get them all done.

As I love to remember, we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what we can do in the long term.

Especially in January!

You may be feeling, on the 8th of January, like you’re already behind. There are already resolutions or super-organised-energetic to-do lists that are slipping.

Here are some things I’ve been doing to help me get through to the really important stuff (big and small):

  • Draw the important / urgent matrix: get a big piece of paper and divide it into quarters, as below. Start seeing your to-do list in terms of importance (the value something adds to your business, or its potential) and urgency. It’s a great way to see what you can postpone, de-prioritise and stop doing. (Note: social media notifications usually fit in ‘urgent but not important’ – the blacklist zone.) Update: here’s a printable version of the urgent and important worksheet.





  • Be very clear about what needs to be done today, and what can wait. I really, really want to write a new ecourse, organise a workshop, and blog every day. They all hold value, but actually they can wait while I sort everything else out. They’re ideas that aren’t going anywhere, and much as I’m sad I can’t do them this week, I know I’ll enjoy it when I do.
  • Realise that small acts are sometimes the most energy-consuming. Sometimes, I end up giving a disproportionate amount of weight to certain tasks, like replying to an email. Something that’s going to take me 10 minutes or less ends up sitting on my to-do list with as much importance as ‘Create new ecourse’. I’m still learning this, but it makes a huge difference to me to get small bits out of the way first, so that they don’t weigh on my mind.
  • Be curious about how much you can do in a day. Rather than thinking, ‘I have eight hours of work time today, so I’ll do this for 10 minutes, and this for an hour, and I’ll go straight to the next thing for an hour…’, try becoming a scientist and experimenter in your own time and habits. Discover how much you can do in a day, or an afternoon, rather than thinking you already know, or trying to fit too much in. So at the end of the day, you can say, ‘Oh, cool, I did five things’, rather than kicking yourself because you expected to do 10.

And of course, I have a couple of tools to help you with organisation. The first is The Year’s End, to help you plan your year, and the second is a shiny new Planning With Purpose monthly programme which opens for registration on Monday. (And for those interested, Inspired Action will run in April this year, not Feb/Mar as previously advertised.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts, tactics and to-do lists!

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