How to Prioritize Your Day Without Being Overwhelmed

Are you feeling overwhelmed from everything on your daily to-do list? Do you feel like you’re not getting the most out of each day?

Then chances are you may not be making the right daily to-dos a priority.

Think about your current to-do list. You have work emails to check, bathrooms that desperately need cleaned, dinner that has to be made, kids that have piano lessons and soccer practice and bills that need to be paid. Oh, and let’s not forget dry cleaning that needs to be picked up and spin class tonight.

Your daily to-do list is probably a half-mile long, and before the day is half over you’ve probably added more to-dos than you’ve crossed off. At this rate, you’ll never get through your to-do list. (Raise your hand if you’re already feeling so overwhelmed that you’re ready to go hide in your closet with a box of Girl Scout cookies.)

While skillfully balancing multiple priorities and responsibilities seems near impossible at times, it isn’t. Here’s how you can manage your day without being overwhelmed.

Four tips for prioritizing your day so you don't feel overwhelmed

Ask the right questions.

If you want to maximize the value of your daily output, write down or type up a draft of your to-do list each morning. Once that’s done, look at it and ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. What’s my ultimate goal for today? Set daily goals; goals that should align with your daily priorities, or at least support hem. If you have the day’s end goal(s) in mind from the get-go, you can use that to effectively decide what your top priorities are and what action items you need to take.
  2. Is this really a priority? Not having priorities in life would be overwhelming. Every single thing we’re presented with would be important or urgent, and we couldn’t focus or enjoy anything. But, not everything is a priority. When you decide what is and what isn’t, which could vary by your day’s goals, you can determine what tasks are priorities and simplify your to-do list.
  3. How much time and energy do I have? If you know it’s going to be a busy workday, don’t prioritize a lot of personal or family tasks. If you didn’t sleep well and you’re having a low energy day, don’t commit yourself to exercising, cleaning the house and helping with your kid’s science fair project today. Doing either sets you up for failure. Be realistic with your time and energy level, and prioritize accordingly.

Break big priorities into smaller tasks.

An example of a big priority is cleaning the entire house. If that’s your prioritized to-do item today, I can guarantee it’s not going to get done today. It’s huge and time-consuming; you’ll feel overwhelmed just looking at it. Something like this needs to be split into smaller action items. These smaller tasks will help you to not feel overwhelmed. They’ll also let you focus on doing one smaller thing at a time and then feel a sense of accomplishment once that item is done, which then motivates you to continue completing the rest of that priority’s action items.

Lighten your load where you can.

Is there anything you can have family or friends help you out with? Or better yet, do for you? Can you push the deadline for a work project? You’re only one person. You literally can’t do it all (even though sometimes you get pretty close). Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask for an extension if you need it.

Get organized with your own personal productivity system.

Wanting to be more productive? Organization is key. And there are several productivity techniques you can try. Two well-known examples include:

  1. GTD: The philosophy of getting things done by getting them out of your head and onto paper or another format so they’re easier to manage and prioritize.
  2. Pomodoro Technique: This is more of a time-management method. It involves working passionately on a task for a set amount of time and then taking a short break. You repeat this process throughout the day; eventually taking longer breaks in between to reset yourself.

Some have found to be their most productive self when they create their own productivity system by mixing various techniques together.

Give yourself some “fun” time.

Once you’ve met your top priorities for the day, reward yourself by doing something you really enjoy, like reading a chapter in a book, watching a show on Netflix or perusing Pinterest for 10 minutes. This fun little break is the refreshing reward you need to finish your day, and do it all over again tomorrow.

What and how you choose to spend your time each day is a critical component of creating gratifying days without every feeling overwhelmed from your to-do list