We have entered the busiest time of year for many people and it can be overwhelming, stressful, and difficult to stay organized. At the exact time when we want life to slow down so that we can celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus, we also experience a lot of pressure to get things done.
So, with Christmas just a few weeks away, how are you doing? Do you feel like you are in pretty good shape, kind of stressed or really overwhelmed?
No matter where you are on that spectrum, there is a strategy and tool I’d like to share with you to reduce any overwhelm you might have. And the good news is that you can use this anytime of year.
A couple of months ago, I joined a Facebook group where we post our Most Important Task (MIT) each day, both personal and business. Many of us in the group are both homeschoolers and bloggers/business owners with a lot pulling for our attention. Even so, we can only determine ONE priority, not ten, as our most important task of the day for our two categories.
It’s been a game-changer for me. This simple action of considering all my to-do’s for the day and identifying just one thing as a priority, has made a big difference in my focus, stress level and productivity.
To-Do List Overwhelm
In the past, I really struggled with anxiety when the 500-things-on-my-to-do-list overwhelm hit me. When I had a lot to do I’d basically “check out” and go do something “productive” (you know, like check Facebook or something) to try and relieve my stress and anxiety. I’d avoid my to-do’s and the many things swirling in my head. When I did that, I’d end up feeling more stressed. Because when I came back from whatever unimportant thing I’d decided to spend my time on, all my to-do’s were still sitting there staring me in the face. That’s a vicious cycle at it’s finest.
Or if I didn’t do that, I’d write down my long list of to-do’s and start plugging away at them. Sure, I’d get things done. But sometimes I’d look back at that list at the end of the day and realize I hadn’t done the thing I needed or wanted to do the most.
Either way, I wasn’t always doing the things most important to me, which often left me feeling discouraged, scattered and stressed. If you can relate then you know that this is never a good feeling.
A Strategy That Works
To combat to-do-list overwhelm, I’ve tried various strategies over the years. Because this stay-at-home momma, homeschooling, and let’s build a business thing is really hard. Just raising little people is hard. It’s hard to keep up with all the demands of motherhood, not to mention everything else. And add the Christmas schedule in there? It’s enough to make a person want to go back to bed.
But this most recent strategy of writing down my most important task for the day has helped tremendously. In fact, it’s been one of the most helpful things I’ve done in recent years. And even though I have a lot going on with homeschooling, Christmas right around the corner, and an upcoming launch of my new store (Yay! I’ll tell you more about that soon!), my stress is minimal since I’ve narrowed my focus.
It also means that I have an easier time saying “yes” or “no” to things as they come up. And I’ve had to say “no” to some things that I may have typically said “yes” to. But I know I can’t do it all and if I’m going to focus on what’s most important right now then there are things I’m just not going to be able to do at the moment. As you narrow your focus, you’ll too more easily know what things in your life to say “yes” to and what things to say “no” or “not right now”.
Here’s something I said yes to this week:
I was fortunate enough to have a mom and sisters to bake Christmas cookies with every year since I was young. Over the years we have continued the tradition. Even after my sister passed away, and we weren't so sure we wanted to do it without her, we continued on. We've included our own children in this tradition and today it was so rewarding for me to see the two youngest people in the family (my twin girls) enjoying this special time together. I am filled with gratitude for all the cookie-baking memories over the years and hope to have many, many more.
Determining Your Most Important Task Is More Than a Productivity Tactic
Life is more than a big to-do list. People matter. Taking time to enjoy our blessings matters. This strategy isn’t about massive productivity and checking off boxes. Your focus and Most Important Task for the day may simply be reading a Christmas book with your children or baking cookies together or making a special dinner for your family. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something that you want to make a priority for the day.
When my twin girls were babies, my MIT might have been taking a shower or ordering groceries. The point is not to come up with something amazing, but just determining what you want to make sure you do that day, write it down and follow through.
I personally find that when it’s written down I am more likely to follow through. And so I created a weekly schedule printable that I’ve been using to map out my week and write down my MIT each day.
I’m sharing this printable with you so that you too can try this strategy and see if it helps you narrow your focus, reduce stress and do the things that matter most to you.
After all, we want to enjoy the amazing journey that we are on, right?
Oh wait…you have a couple of questions. Ok, maybe you don’t but I had these questions so I’ll answer them just in case you are wondering these things too.
“But I need to get more than a single thing done every day so how can I choose only ONE Most Important Task?”
Here’s the deal. You are going to get more than one thing done every day. Determining a MIT won’t change that. There are habits you already have in place and things that you automatically do that you will not need to consider as your Most Important Task.
If you are automatically doing something (meaning it’s a habit) then you don’t have to consider that particular thing, even if you believe it’s the most important thing you could do that day. For example, if you read the Bible every single morning then you don’t need to list it, even if you believe it’s most important. However, if you always forget to read your Bible but believe it’s the most important thing you could do in a day (and want to create that habit), then yes, you might want to list that as your MIT.
So, your Most Important Task might be something you wouldn’t automatically do or something you don’t really like to do (like clean the bathroom).
“But what if I legitimately have 2, 3, 4 or 10 key tasks that I absolutely need to get done that day?”
We all have those days when we need to get more than one key thing accomplished. When that happens, determine the most important thing on your list and write it down. Do that first, then when it is done you can list your next MIT and so on until everything is complete (or the day is done and you collapse in bed).
So, if you think this strategy of determining your Most Important Task each day and writing it down will help you focus and minimize stress this Christmas season (and as we head into the New Year) go ahead and print out the weekly schedule printable.
Once you’ve given it a try, let me know if you find it helpful. And if you are using the MIT strategy already, tell us how it’s working for you and any insights you might have.