As the holidays approach, the feeling of being overwhelmed is inevitable. Professional and Personal To-Do Lists grow ever larger with the holidays and year-end tasks pile up. It can often feel like our work-life balance is crumbling around us, and the more we try to balance, the more we fail.
I call this the Holiday Overwhelm Blues. Most of us go through it, and with good reason: a lot is happening! Your family and friends are demanding attention, your work needs finishing before taking time off, and wellness falls to the wayside with large meals and cold weather. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Now is the time to focus on resilience and well-being by prioritizing.
How to Prioritize
“But everything is a priority!” It’s hard to leave this mindset with so much going on. The first step to prioritizing when everything is a priority recognizes that it’s not true; not everything is a priority. You can use a few ways or methodologies to prioritize your to-do list.
But first, whenever you feel overwhelmed, always take a few breaths to clear your head. Then, move on to the steps to manage the holiday overwhelm blues once and for all.
Method 1: Label Your To-Do List
If you are an avid to-do list creator like I am, you’ve already started the first step. It is essential to jot down every task you can think of, either in a single all-encompassing list or in two separate lists marked ‘Personal’ and ‘Work’.
Next, assign a label to each item on your to-do list. Some like to use a four-tiered system based on a matrix of the item’s importance and urgency. A sample could look something like this:
Level 1: Highly important, highly urgent; Level 2: Not important, but urgent; Level 3:Highly important, not urgent; Level 4: Not important or urgent.
Once you apply these levels, it can give you a better sense of direction on how to tackle the items on your to-do list.
Method 2: Simple Prioritization
Others tackle their to-do list through simple prioritization. Some call this the A, B, C, Method, combining urgency and importance into a single concept. The ABC Method looks something like this:
Label A: This is a must-do item. It cannot wait, or it has a pressing effect on how others utilize my skills or services. Label B: This is a should-do item. It is something that needs to be addressed, but practically speaking can wait until later. Label C: This is an item that would be nice to do. Typically, things such as attending educational webinars or meeting someone for a networking lunch fall into this category.
Method 3: The Snowball Method
Everyone knows what happens when you roll a snowball down a hill. It builds, growing larger and larger, picking up more snow with each roll. At least, that’s what the cartoons showed us would happen. Reality might be different, but practically speaking, many apply this method to their to-do list. It borrows on concepts such as those by some financial gurus, tackling the smaller items first regardless of their priority.
This might seem counterintuitive at first. But for those who ascribe to the method, it provides a reinforced sense of accomplishment. Some individuals work best when they only have a single task on their plate. With multiple tasks, it can feel distracting to look at the total volume of work at hand. By knocking out the smaller tasks, individuals using the Snowball Method have more focus and energy.
Don’t Tackle Top Priorities at the Same Time
Even if you believe yourself to be the best multitasker in the world, taking on too many activities at once is bad, especially when overwhelmed. This is the basis of the Snowball Method: it feels like multitasking to see many to-do items simultaneously. Knocking out the smaller items helps you to recenter your efforts.
Reassess and Adjust Priorities
Remember that your list isn’t etched in stone. You may need to adapt as things change. Check your list every morning or night to mark off tasks and reassess what needs to be done. Move around urgent tasks, adjust priorities, and add or delete items as needed.
You should also consider what can realistically be accomplished with the time you have. If you find that your first list included too many tasks due around the same time, you can change it upon reassessment.
How to Manage the Holiday Overwhelm Blues
We can all agree that prioritization is a key skill to success either on the personal side or professional or even during the holidays or in every day life. The key here is to discover what works for you. Whether you need multiple lists, different colored ink, or a coach to help you organize your tasks, do whatever you makes feel resilient and productive for the new year ahead.
If the latter sounds like something that would help you in this or other areas of your professional career, let me know. You can book a time to chat with me through this link HERE.