Prioritizing to Manage Stress

Does your to-do list seem never-ending? Feeling that you don’t have a choice about how you spend your time can cause a lot of stress. When you are being pulled in a lot of different directions, it takes intention to focus on what’s important and move the ball forward. Choosing your priorities is one way to manage the stress and get things done.

Here are a few tips to help with this:

Prioritize. Decide which tasks are most important. The flow of your day may not permit you to get more than one or two things on your agenda done. What you do get done though will be the ones you chose as most important.

Delegate. For the tasks you’ve deemed lowest priority, decide if someone else can do them. At work, that may mean delegating them to a staff member or seeing if a more junior colleague could benefit from the experience. At home, it could mean hiring an outside contractor or asking another family member to handle the task.

Assess urgency. Is it an urgent task? Sometimes it seems like everything needs to be done as soon as possible (or so we’re led to believe). In reality, you’ll often find that some tasks can sit while you focus on the most pressing ones. Spreading things out to a more manageable time frame can cut your stress levels a lot!

Say ‘no’. Learning to say “no” is critical for setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing your to-do list. You can quickly get and stay overwhelmed if you often feel compelled to agree to requests that come your way. When you don’t really have the time or enthusiasm to take on a particular task, be (respectfully) honest about it and, if appropriate, help find an alternative solution that won’t cause you extra stress.

Jettison the unnecessary. Sometimes tasks are on our list out of habit. You’ve always done it and don’t question if it still needs to be done (or done by you). You may want to reconsider and ask yourself if the task remains necessary or if you are still the right person to perform it.

Check your ego. Our “busy is impressive” culture can run you ragged. It’s easy to get a sense of exaggerated self-importance from being busy and relied on by others. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. If you have a sense that this is the case, you may find it useful to check in with yourself and ask why you are doing so much and who it is really benefiting.

Relax. Finding time to relax is really important if you are going to keep your stress under control and avoid burnout. Find time to exercise, enjoy the company of family and friends, and laugh. These activities are integral to good health and help you keep some balance in your life.