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feeling overwhelmed

Tame Your To Do-List Today

Looking at your massive to-do list and feeling like everything has to be done now? How do you prioritise? Where do you even begin?

I’ve got a magic wand to make it better – my Magic Matrix Action Sheet!

This is a new spin on an old favourite (by productivity guru Stephen Covey) and it works every time. You’ll get a clearer picture of what’s really important – and what can wait.

Have a stack of these handy so you can whip one out whenever your head’s in a whirl.

‘But it all feels important and urgent!’

It won’t feel that way once you’ve done this:

Step 1: Click here to print your Magic Matrix Action Sheet.

Step 2: Put your tasks into the relevant quadrants. (Write down everything on your list plus what’s taking up valuable headspace.)

Q1: Important and Urgent

This is the JUST DO IT box. If it needs doing today or latest tomorrow (and only you can do it) put it here. Having too much stuff in this box is stressful as it means you’re in fire fighting mode. You ideally want to spend as little time in this box as possible.

Example: Calling the plumber to fix the blocked toilet, buying a birthday present for the party this afternoon, taking sick pet to the vet.

Q2. Important But Not Urgent (Yet)

Here’s where you put the stuff that’s not screamingly urgent yet, but will be if you leave it too long. It’s also the place for planning and organisation. This is where you want to spend most of your time each day.

Examples: Meal planning, sending cards, paying bills, booking flights, making appointments, figuring out the costume for your child’s school performance (instead of the night before). 

Q3. Not Urgent and Not Vitally Important (but you still really want to do it!)

Put stuff here that you don’t want to forget and it’ll stay on your radar. Later when you’re out of overwhelm, start to break bigger projects down into smaller steps so you can block off small chunks of time to make some headway on it.

Examples: Organising your photos, creating albums, clearing the clutter, home decorating projects, travel research.

Once you’ve identified it as not urgent or important right now, stop thinking about it. This is the ticket to getting out of overwhelm. It’s here on your list and doesn’t need to be taking up room in your brain.

Q4. Delegate

What doesn’t have to be done by you? When your head’s in a spin and you’ve got waaaay too much on your plate, it’s time to delegate. Don’t be a martyr. Ask for help. It’s all about how you ask. Can another mother from school collect your kids? Can your friend run an errand for you at the same time she’s running her own? Can your hubby / kids pitch in? If you admit you’re snowed under and you ask nicely, people are generally happy to help out. (Wouldn’t you?)

I hope this Magic Matrix helps clear your cluttered brain and gives you some perspective on what you need to focus on now – and what can wait.

Going forward, guard your Q2 time like a mother tiger. Operating within this quadrant is the key to feeling less like a headless chicken and more like a productivity ninja. When life throws you a Q1 style curveball (which it will)  you’ll have the time and head space to deal with it easier.

Want more help getting on top of your endless to-do list? Click here to Master Your To-Do List! 

In the comments below, let me know how you keep it together when you’re swamped.

photo credit: The Rocketeer via Photopin

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  1. Yasmine on September 30, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    I love this! This is a simple tool but super powerful for results, people often under estimate the power of focusing on what matter in order to get things done!

  2. farah on October 1, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    Yep! Agree! Would add delete and delegate!! I have old to-dos carrying over for months sometimes.. Gotta get honest- is it a delete coz it cant be that important to me anymore? Or is there something I feel I dont have the skills for, so is it a delegate? 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 1, 2013 at 8:58 AM

      Great point Farah!

      Often we need to examine why certain task on our to-do list keep hanging around indefinitely. Why are we resisting them? If they were TRULY important wouldn’t we have just done them by now? (Perfect reason to delete – and stop feeling guilty over having not done it!)

      Or, as you rightly point out, maybe it takes you out of your comfort zone/ability – in which case delegate/outsource it!

      OR – do as I just did this morning about my printer not functioning. For days I’ve had it on my to-do list to deal with, but kept putting it off. Fixing printer NOT in my skill set. But today I decided that before outsourcing it to my already bogged down hubby, I’d Google the hell out of it and find out what to do. Following online instructions I managed to take it apart, clean the print head with Q Tips and rubbing alcohol and put it back together again. It still doesn’t work, but at least now I know I need to buy a new print head! Progress instead of a stagnant item on my to-do list 🙂 I feel so kick ass that I took apart and reassembled a printer too.

  3. Christie Halmick on October 1, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Halloween costumes are in my Q2! Somehow I’m always up the night before Halloween sewing, etc. 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 1, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      Christie, that makes me feel so much better!! Why do I always leave that last minute too? Ok, starting on it this week! 😉

  4. Jenny on October 2, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Love this!!! Absolutely going to print this out…. I have been re-launching my brand because I quit my job last week & feel as though there are endless amounts of things to do!! 🙂

    Thanks!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 2, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      Glad you like it Jenny! It’s easy to fall into ‘overwhelm’ when everything feels important and urgent. This Action Sheet is the key for separating it all into sensible boxes so you know in which order to tackle it. It’ll unscrambles your brain every time. Good luck with your re-launch!

  5. Janine on October 2, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Stellar post!

    My issue is always giving myself permission to put what I feel are non-urgent things (but important to me) at the top of my list–like exercising, self-care/down-time, etc. I always want to put all my work-related tasks at the top, but I’m learning to put myself first more often now and consider those “to-dos” just as vital to my well-being as any of my other responsibilities.

  6. Kelly Pietrangeli on October 2, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Great point Janine. If you find yourself only putting work related stuff into Q1 ad Q2, your “me time” gets shoved too far down the list. Good for you for seeing the importance of adding these into the overall picture. It’s indeed vital!

    In case you haven’t seen it, here’s one that helps turn you from a Human DOING into a Human BEING 🙂 http://www.myprojectme.com/stop-being-a-slave-to-your-to-do-list/

  7. Dina on May 21, 2015 at 11:28 PM

    What a handy tool! Thanks Kelly for creating and sharing this. I love to be organized and make lists, but sometimes it gets overwhelming — this looks like it will help me easily identify what HAS to happen and what I just WANT to happen.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on May 22, 2015 at 9:57 PM

      You’re so welcome Dina – I hope it does the trick for you! I’m at the point now where I don’t even need the sheet. When my head’s in a spin I grab a sheet of paper, make my 4 boxes and start braindumping! Soon I know what I need to do first – and what can wait. 🙂

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