How I Stay On Top Of My To-Do List & Manage Overwhelm

How I Stay On Top Of My To-Do List & manage Overwhelm.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.” – Paul Meyer.

One of the most useful tools I use in business and in life is a to-do list. It sounds so simple, however the mere act of putting pen to paper helps me to stay accountable and on track to completing the work that matters. I know I’m not alone in this, as many of my podcast guests have shared that writing a to-do list is one of the most life-changing practices they’ve developed.

Between balancing a demanding full-time job, blogging, podcasting, coaching, mentoring, working out and still finding time to maintain some kind of social / family life, some weeks can leave me feeling burnt out and exhausted. There are a few practices I’ve put in place to stay on top of my to-do list and manage overwhelm.


One of the most important ways to stay on top of your to-do list is establishing your priorities. Take some time to do a journalling exercise and write down your answer to this question:

If I could focus on just 3 things in my life, what would those 3 things be?”

Your answer to this could be as simple as your health, being a good mum and one aspect of your business. The reality is that when you try to accomplish everything at once, you end up accomplishing very little. Or the things that you do accomplish, are not done to a high standard because you simply cannot give those things the time or attention they deserve. Focus on doing only a few things, and doing those things really well.

When you understand what your top 3 priorities are in business or in life, you can then get more granular and plan out what you need to focus on in a given day or week.


One of the biggest societal traps is being busy vs. being productive. Debbie Millman has talked to how “busy is a decision.” We are now living in a society that uses busy as a badge. It has become a cultural cache to use the excuse “I am too busy” for anything we don’t feel like doing. 

Observe your habits and working patterns for a period of day or a week. Take note of how your are spending your time. Are you kicking goals and completing the meaningful work that is important to you? Or are you filling up your time with emails, phone calls and other distractions that make you feel like you are busy doing something? Recognise the difference of being busy vs. productive.


Aside from making a to-do list, it’s equally important to create a ‘not-to do list.’ Brian Tracey summed this up wonderfully when he said:

“When you make a to-do list, you should also make a to-not-to-do list. Warren Buffet was asked about the secret to success, and he said it was saying no to almost everything. Some of those little tasks won’t matter as long as you get the big tasks done.” – Brian Tracy.

Saying no is something that many of us struggle with. I have an entire blog post dedicated to saying no gracefully, which you can read here.


What are some of the strategies or practices you use to stay on top of your to-do list and manage overwhelm? I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below!

Images sourced via Pinterest.

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