Time Management At It’s Best, One List or Two?

Whether we like to admit it or not, when we have too much to do we are overwhelmed.  When we are overwhelmed we become inefficient, agitated, short tempered and quite frankly a pain to know.
Why?  Because it’s stressful.  When cortisol the stress hormone is over stimulated havoc breaks loose. 
The big three that cause a huge surge of cortisol are bereavement, divorce and moving house.  But believe it or not, this kind of stress is not the health risk we think, because no matter how bad we feel, we will recover on some level.
Equally, cortisol secretion in the short term is great because it keeps us alert, sharp and we can think on our feet.  If however, it goes on for too long that’s when things go badly wrong.  Typically this happens at work when tasks are not finished.  It’s the undone to-do list that eats away at us like a nasty little finger constantly prodding and poking robbing us of our sanity.

This kind of stress overwhelms to the point of not thinking clearly, not feeling motivated and even our memory is badly affected. This creates all sorts of problems for ourselves and our company.
There are of course other stressors that can affect our work such as relationship problems in our personal lives.  Even when things are going well, there is always something that can send cortisol through the roof, so we have to make sure we are as prepared as we can be by organising ourselves well.  That way when the unforeseen happens (and let’s face it it’s called life) we are in a strong place to cope.
The simplest and easiest way to get a grip is the age old to-do list.  We all know this.  Last thing before leaving work or first thing in the morning, as you sit at your desk, is to write a list of what needs to be achieved that day.
For me, I find prioritising those actions helpful, but there is a caveat here.  In order to prioritise we need to be realistic when calculating how long things take.  There is no point writing 10 actions down that will take you until midnight.  It’s better to work out how much time you need for each one and then prioritise accordingly, so the list may drop down to 6 for instance.  It is pointless trying to avoid stress by writing a to-do list and then adding to stress levels because some items on the to-do list are undone.
Once you have achieved item one you can flamboyantly tick or triumphantly cross it out.  Which do you do?  I’m a flamboyant ticker, quite delicious.  Then I take a moment to re-prioritise my list as things may have changed as a consequence of finishing item number one.
However, have you thought of running two lists at the same time?  Why?  Because our personal life needs to be addressed daily as well.  When we are disorganised at home or forgotten to go to the dry cleaners or send a birthday card to a friend or loved one we may feel guilty and just as agitated as if we have missed calling a key client.
My biggest tip of all is to draw a vertical line down the centre of an A4 page.  On one side write a work list and on the other a personal list and treat them both with equal importance.
Oh and of course, celebrate when you see all those amazing ticks or horizontal crossings out emulating a ladder looking just like a stairway to success and a calm mind.  Mmmmm I like that metaphor, perhaps I will become both a flamboyant ticker and triumphant crosser outer at the same time.