Prioritize Your To-Do List

Stress can be managed through Lark’s health app

One of the most common sources of stress is having too much to do and, along with that, not enough time. Stress can result for many reasons, such as if:

  • You fail to complete “all the things you have to do”

  • You need to go through each task so quickly that you cannot enjoy it or do it as well as you otherwise could

  • You have no time left for yourself.

You are not alone if you are short on time and big on “to-do’s,” but by prioritizing your to-do list, you can reduce possible stress that comes from having too much to do.

  1. Make a list. How often have you complained that you have too much on your to-do list... without having a to-do list? A funny thing about stress is that it often is worse when your stressors are vague. Identify what you need to do in a neat list, and you may be surprised that it is not so bad. By the way, it’s easier to prioritize a to-do list if you actually have a list.

  2. Divide your list. Some items, such as reorganizing your kitchen drawers may be more appropriate on a “wish” list of things you want to do someday when you have time. Others may be better on a monthly or weekly list rather than a daily list. There is really no reason to stress out about making a trip to the store to buy carpet cleaner today if you are not planning to clean your carpets for another three weeks.

  3. Schedule events in your day. Bring your to-do list a step closer to reality by thinking about when you might start to accomplish various items. Schedule things you can do by yourself at times when you are likely to be alone and without interruptions. Know that things you do first are the ones most likely to get done, so early-morning tasks should be the most important. 

  4. Trim the fat. This step can require some soul-searching as it may become apparent that the estimated time required to complete your tasks is longer than the time you have. You may be able to multi-task a bit to save time, such as showering at the gym instead of going home to shower before work. Other items on your list may need to be postponed. There may be emails that can be shortened or delayed.

  5. Be more efficient. Check emails only once and handle them when you see them, instead of tagging them and re-reading them later. Make larger batches of food so you can cook fewer meals. Save driving time by taking a walk from your front door instead of driving to the gym and back for a walk on the treadmill. 

By being organized and thinking a bit about priorities, you can de-stress your to-do list and reduce the amount of stress you feel each day. With that reduction in stress, you may have a more positive outlook and find that you are better able to finish your tasks.


Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health