We all experience time pressure in our lives that can inevitably result in a feeling of being rushed. As we think of all the tasks that we have to do, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there simply isn’t enough time to finish everything.
This perception of not having enough time can often lead to a sense of helplessness or overwhelm that literally paralyzes us from taking action.
Researchers call it ‘task paralysis’ which is a freeze in motivation that may result in procrastination and task avoidance caused by our ever-looming to-do list.
I’ve come across lots of different people who approach their to-do lists very differently. Some wake up and just know what they need to do. Their to-do list is in their heads and they tackle one task at a time until they go home and start the next day doing the same.
Other people write their to-do list either before going to bed or when waking up in the morning. Perhaps it’s on a sticky note or, in some cases, in a journal or note pad, or on their device.
Despite having to-do lists, what percentage of tasks actually get done, on average, each day?
According to a Huffington News report, approximately 66% of professionals write to-do lists on a daily basis but only 59% of these tasks ever get done, leaving a 41% average of uncompleted tasks each day.
Why might this be?
One of the main reasons why is that many people do not spend enough time truly prioritizing what needs to be done each day. They have no filtering system to assess the level of urgency with these tasks which can lead to a feeling that everything is urgent. Like a big tangled ball of tasks needing to be done.
To avoid this, we can take action to change this immediately. If you are a person who feels overwhelm to due time pressure, below are two things you might consider doing.
Night Time Routine:
Invest 5-10 minutes of quiet time each night to not only write out a to-do list, but to ask yourself:
What is the urgency of doing this tomorrow?
When you ask yourself this question you are essentially assessing the urgency of the task. This strategy can help you to better create your to-do lists for each day.
Why do it at night?
The latest neuroscience research suggests that doing this at night unloads our subconscious of worry and anxiety related to the things we have to do the next day. The act of writing it down reduces cognitive load which can result in a better sleep. And who doesn't love a good night's sleep? :)
Eisenhower Decision-Making Matrix:
Before Dwight Eisenhower took the office of President of the United States, he was a general in the United States Army. He had to continuously make difficult decisions in regards to the tasks he had to focus on each day.
This led him to create the Eisenhower principle which helped him to assess the urgency and importance of the tasks he faced each day.
It was later called the Eisenhower Decision-Making Matrix and he brought it with him into his presidency. Many people still use this matrix today to help them prioritize the tasks they need to complete each day. Here it is:
As you can see from the matrix below, you can use it as a mechanism to make better quality decisions about what goes on your to-do list and what doesn’t each day. A simple, yet powerful tool to vet your decision-making.
In summary, if you are on top of your daily to-do list and are among the few who actually complete everything on the list, great job. Keep up whatever it is you are doing.
If not, you may think about approaching your daily tasks differently and see what kind of success you have.
Thanks for reading.
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KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.